Just finished all of Hello, Ladies season 1, which was not a tall order because there are precisely 8 episodes and what I do after work is no one’s business but mine and my bed. I’m still on THE HBO PROJECT. And when it comes to Stephen Merchant’s new solo effort…I don’t hate it!
I got a similar sort of charitable pity-watch feeling from Episodes, but Merchant is a much cuter Brit than the shriveled sad sacks in that show. I actually found myself compulsively watching it because it has that rare thing one doesn’t often find in comedies, which is an undercurrent of existential sadness. I think many modern comedies try for it, but few actors have the black-hole-desperation to pull it off. I just fucking love existential sadness. Especially in the midst of cringe humor, which tends to hinge, essentially, on the human grab for love and acceptance. That’s what Ricky Gervais’ The Office was about, and it’s what his partner Merchant has similarly wrought in Hello Ladies – albeit in a more stylish, HBO-snooty, LA way.
It’s peculiarly weightless, centering around a crop of Angelenos with zero problems except their self-worth (which is everyone living above Sunset Boulevard, I guess). Occasionally funny, always awkward, buoyed helpfully by Merchant’s insane marble-like eyes. He does a lot to carry the show, and I’m really pleasantly surprised by his subtlety and pathos in the emotional scenes. Who knew Gumby could be a leading man? Good for Stephen Merchant; best of luck, you weird tall monster. HL is not consistently well-written, but never offensively bad. And the central will-they-or-won’t-they couple is a weak but charming little ship, which I will willingly sail into season 2.
Oh, and I almost forgot! The entire season is basically worth watching for this one line. Saving for reuse.
I’m addicted most of all to the theme song, which does indeed lend itself to driving alone down LA freeways, feeling cool but living lame. Give it a try. Nothing says existential sadness better than Hall & Oates. *side-eyeing myself*