October 7, 2013

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Hello Ladies”


HELLO LADIES:  Sunday 10:30PM on HBO

Previously… on HELLO LADIES:  Stephen (Stephen Merchant) is a British web designer who lives in LA, where he has a very nice house and two friends:  woeful, newly-separated Wade (Nate Torrence) and paraplegic ladies’ man Kives (Kevin Weisman).  What Stephen doesn’t have is any luck with women, which isn’t all that surprising since he’s an insensitive clod child-man.  Meanwhile, under his nose (in his guest house) lives beautiful, funny, single Jessica (Christine Woods), the one woman on earth Stephen has never even imagined hitting on.

Episode 2:  The premiere of Hello Ladies didn’t suggest a show that was going to have any kind of advancing arc in story or character, and the second episode (which like the first was written by series creators Merchant, Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, and directed by Merchant) told the same tale as the first, as Stephen found new mortifying ways not to hook up with women.  This time, he more or less commandeered the limo Wade had ordered in the pathetically misguided hope that his soon-to-be-ex-wife would go out with him on a date, and proved conclusively that having a limo alone will not get you into a hot LA club–something, one would think, that’s as true in London as it is in Los Angeles, and probably on the moons of Jupiter as well.  But if Stephen isn’t emotionally stunted he isn’t anything, so this came as a shock to him.  Amazingly, Stephen and his cohorts did succeed in getting some female tourists into the limo with them, and even less plausibly, several of Jessica’s hot friends ended up joining them as well, but of course Stephen managed to insult the first group and delude himself about the second, so while Kives (again) didn’t sleep alone, Stephen wound up (again) sharing his solitude with Jessica.

The only interesting angle added by this episode was the depiction of Jessica and her vapid actress friends, not because there was anything original about the idea of beautiful LA women being cartooned as airheads who only care about fashion and gossip, but because Hello Ladies became a little calmer and more clearheaded when Stephen and his amigos were off-screen.  Even though it didn’t make much sense that Jessica would believe this group would have any interest in watching The Battleship Potemkin and listening to jazz on a Saturday night (super fun night!), at least Jessica was allowed to have a touch of emotional depth, and her reluctant realization that she wasn’t very happy in their company was the one moment in the episode that felt like a real emotion.

There were a few amusing bits in the rest, most of them capitalizing on the sheer awkwardness of a stretch limo, like Stephen’s and Wade’s enthusiastic rendition of “Born To Be Wild” out of the sunroof petering out as the car tries to make a U-turn out of his street, and later having to maneuver the car away from the club that wouldn’t let Stephen in.  The show comes closest to life when Stephen and Jessica are just hanging out together–there was a funny riff where Stephen cross-examined Jessica to prove she didn’t really know anything about jazz, believing a major musical figure was “The Loneliest Monk”–but that’s not what this show is going to be about.

As with HBO’s other British comedies, Hello Ladies didn’t have much of an audience, with half a million total viewers for its first airing and 0.3 in 18-49s (below its lead-in Eastbound & Down, but much younger-skewing).  It’s clearly an area that the network feels like it needs in its programming mix, though, so if Hello holds at this level, it’s by no means a lost cause.  Merchant is a very talented guy, and it would be nice to see his show become more interesting than it currently is.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."