TV review: ‘Hello Ladies’

| Elena Wandzilak | Staff Writer

“Hello Ladies” brings the cringe back to television in the most awkward and comedic way. The pilot, which aired Sunday at 10:30 p.m. on HBO, began with Stuart Pritchard (Stephen Merchant) introducing himself at a bar with his classic line, “Hello, ladies,” only to be almost immediately shot down. We were also introduced to Stuart’s best friend Wade (Nate Torrence), “as in Roe v. Wade,” a comment that leads Stuart into a flippant quip about abortion. Cringe.

But it works. Merchant, who co-wrote the British “The Office” and “Extras,” based much of his character off of his stand-up routine as well as some parts of his life. Created by Merchant, Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg (who both worked on the American version of “The Office”), “Hello Ladies” follows Stuart, a British web designer living in Los Angeles and searching for love…or just a date.

The majority of his attempts at flirting end in disaster or Stuart eating chicken wings alone in his kitchen. He is constantly embarrassing himself, from hugging women he just met to spilling drinks. As the viewer, you might find yourself experiencing secondhand shame, but Stuart seems OK with it, so you’re off the hook. In fact, he keeps trying. If Stuart is anything, it’s persistent.

Stuart is friendly and inviting: he buys family-sized packs of chicken wings in the hope of someone eating with him, and he follows through on his offer of buying women drinks even when they open up the invitation to the entire bar, costing him over $800. He knows what he wants, so he goes for it.

This endearing need to be liked by women, however, often takes precedence in his life. Even though Stuart had promised to take Wade out for bowling in order to take the latter’s mind off his separation from his wife, Stuart quickly changes his mind when he meets a young woman who is going to a new club. Does Stuart completely ditch Wade?

Nope. He brings Wade and even allows Wade’s friend Kives (Kevin Weisman) to tag along.

Kives rapidly became one of my favorite characters. He is insanely confident but also really crude. “Are you dating, mating or masturbating?” he asks Stuart, leaving Stuart fumbling for a proper response. Plus, he is the only one to go home with a lady at the end of the night. Oh, he’s also in a wheelchair, which makes him “soooo slow,” according to Stuart. He’s a perfect foil to the 6-foot-7-inch Stuart, who strikes out again and again at the club due in part to his awkward one-sided conversations and “white-man dancing.”

Another favorite character of mine is Jessica (Christine Woods), who lives in Stuart’s guest house. She is an aspiring actress and web series creator (so Los Angeles) who doesn’t put up with Stuart’s “ladies man” persona. She’s smart and cute and cock blocks Stuart just because it’s funny, and I’m interested to see more of her throughout the season. Do I think Stuart and Jessica will end up together? Nah, but the friendship will certainly do them both some good.

Stuart is embarrassingly awkward and almost always says the wrong thing, but I’m rooting for him. Just like we liked Ricky Gervais’ David Brent or Steve Carell’s Michael Scott, we like Stuart Pritchard. After all, aren’t we all a little cringe-worthy sometimes?