With an awkward crane of his neck and the first of what is sure to be many “Hello ladies,” Stuart Pritchard introduces himself to the world. HBO’s Hello Ladies is a new comedy from the mind of The Office and Extras co-creator Stephen Merchant. Stepping aside from his past partnerships with Ricky Gervais, Merchant teams up with Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky in this portrait of an English web designer cruising for chicks in Los Angeles.
Stuart, played by Merchant, believes himself to be a ladies’ man, and yet is continually shocked to find himself ending the night alone. Alone eating wings and watching infomercials at home, Stuart reminds me of a grownup Bill Haverchuck eating snacks and watching TV by himself. But instead of being ignorant to his own loneliness, Stuart is painfully aware that alone is not what he wants to be. Why else would he buy a single serving of wings rather than buying in bulk?
But he’s not completely alone at home — he has Jessica (Christine Woods). Well, more like he has Jessica as a tenant living in his guest house. She is an actress and aspiring creator of a web series on globalization. Jessica has a “boyfriend” (more like f— buddy) and finds herself watching TV with Stuart after her “boyfriend” leaves for the night.
At first instinct, I am totally against a future pairing between Stuart and Jessica. That would be way too easy for him, for both of them to realize “Hey! The person I’ve been looking for to be with has been in front of me the whole time!” Bore, snooze — I’m not into that. However, Merchant and Woods have fantastic on-screen chemistry that makes their characters’ interactions work. All in all, I would be okay if they eventually got together — but not until the series finale (hopefully) many years from now.
Wade (Nate Torrence) is Stuart’s sweet, hapless friend, who is currently reeling from a separation (don’t say divorced!) with his wife. Stuart helps out his buddy, tag-teaming the bar scene. But really Wade is there to make the English man look good — or more accurately — someone Stuart can blame when he inevitably strikes out. Nonetheless, Wade remains his closest friend, and Stuart offers to take the soon-to-be-divorcee out for bowling to get his mind off of his impending wedding anniversary.
The question is — is Stuart a good enough friend to stick to his plans or would he ditch them for a chance to see a woman? Ha, like you even have to ask.
While at work with Rory (Kyle Mooney), Stuart’s assistant web designer and most likely to become my personal favorite, Stuart overhears Jessica with a female in her office/living space. Donning a fedora and scarf, which he must keep handy in some sort of Ladies’ Man utility belt, Stuart “flirts” with pretty, young actress Courtney as Jessica tries to run lines with her.
In a beautifully cringe-worthy scene, Stuart goes through a series of ditches and re-invites in order to meet with Courtney at new club Saboteur — with Wade in tow. Jessica doesn’t help matters, and Stuart later asks why she was “cock-blocking him.” “Mmm, because it’s funny,” she replies. That’s a good enough reason for me — a stumbling, bumbling Stuart on the prowl is Stuart at his best.
Armed with “groin cloths” (ugh Stuart’s term for condoms), Wade and Stuart are off to the club in Stuart’s midlife-crisis red convertible. Much to Stuart’s chagrin, however, they must first wait for Wade’s friend Kives (Kevin Weisman) to join them. Kives is crude yet confident and as Stuart complains, “soooo slow” since he’s wheelchair-bound.
Kives may be a foul-mouthed and dirty guy, asking everyone he meets if they are “dating, mating, or masturbating” but he nevertheless has a way with the ladies — making Stuart’s blood boil. Stuart, on the other hand, finds himself paying for a whole tray full of drinks in order to impress Courtney.
His white man dance introduction and subsequent non-conversations with Courtney are so painfully awkward I can’t help but to laugh/cry a bit inside. Eventually Stuart makes a mess of everything, spilling $800 worth of drinks all over his clothes. The spilled drinks then reveal the “groin cloth” in his shirt pocket to everyone around him, including Courtney. Wade, Kives, and Stuart leave the club with Wade happy and drunk, Kives accompanied by a lady, and Stuart pissed off and alone. Despite high hopes at the beginning of the night, Stuart ends up just where he started — alone eating chicken wings and watching infomercials.
With his confidence vacillating between thinking he’s God’s gift to women and thinking he will be forever alone, Stuart is a man of two worlds — fantasy land and the realm of insecurity. He is a relatable caricature of the awkward geek looking for love inside all of us.
Favorite lines of the episode:
“Yeah, right. It’s not like I could just hop in bed with Sigourney Weaver.”
“Shhh! Do you hear that? It’s women! It’s women!”
“Just casually drop into conversation — Ah, you know Stuart’s working on some coding syntax that will make HTML look like f—ing MS DOS.”
When someone cuts the line to the bar: “What’s the rules? What’s the rules in this place?”
I’ll be tuning next week’s round of schadenfreude that hits a bit too close to home, will you?