For most of his career, Stephen Merchant has been known as Ricky Gervais’ right-hand man. He co-created The Office, Extras and Life’s Too Short (and co-starred in the latter two) and is the co-host of Gervais’ podcast/animated series. Hello Ladies finds him flying solo for the first time, in a show that has some of the same cringe humor as his work with Gervais, but also functions as a more conventional sitcom. The mix of styles is actually the show’s biggest problem, since Merchant and his co-creators Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (who were writers on the U.S. Office) can’t seem to decide whether lead character Stuart (Merchant) is a creepy, lecherous weirdo or an endearing nerd.
When he’s out on the town in Los Angeles attempting to pick up women, Stuart is undeniably unpleasant, surrounded by a group of friends who are sort of the anti-Entourage. But at home with his roommate/obvious future love interest Jessica (Christine Woods), he’s sweet and charming. Neither mode is all that funny, but the awkwardness is a tiresome retread of Merchant’s work with Gervais, while the show’s more low-key side exhibits greater potential. If Merchant is going to strike out on his own, he should fully commit to developing his own unique voice.