Saturday, November 29, 2014

Merchantilism

Stephen Merchant is best known as Ricky Gervais' collaborator, creating such popular short-run shows as The Office and Extras. (Merchant was also excellent as a low-rent agent in the latter.)  He went out on his own with Hello Ladies, an HBO mini-series that wasn't renewed after one season, but was recently allowed a 90-minute goodbye episode.

I didn't think much of the first and only season, but good or bad, I knew exactly what the finale would offer.  Merchant's done this before.  Both The Office and Extras had special finales after their regular runs, and in both cases sold out the lead character's essence to offer him a moment of grace.  In The Office, David Brent acquires self-knowledge that had been denied him earlier (though his lack of self-knowledge was the whole point of the series) so he gets a happy ending.  In Extras, Andy Millman suddenly loses his shallowness (once again, the whole point of the series), and decides fame doesn't really matter.

Hello Ladies features Merchant as software designer Stuart Pritchard, an Englishman living in Los Angeles who spends most of his time in fruitless pursuit of hot women. But it's not just that he fails--he also doesn't get how empty his goal is.  After all, his housemate Jessica is a lovely woman who's also lost, and while they're friends, they don't try to connect on a deeper level.

I assume if the show were allowed another season they would have developed this relationship, but since this was it, it's rushed into.  The finale gives us Stuart's backstory explaining why he does what he does (who cares?), then allows him to pick up a hot model, have a fling with Jessica, lose her, and finally reconnect once he (and Jessica) realize what's actually important.

I can understand Merchant showing some mercy to his characters, and the audience is probably pleased to get a happy ending. But it doesn't necessarily make for good television.

1 Comments:

Blogger New England Guy said...

I gave up on the series about halfway through but I kind of liked this very slight movie. It was maudlin enough with some good cringe moments (the Nicole Kidman scene had me laughing a lot). I'll never watch it again and took a call for 15 minutes in the middle of it but it was fine

8:51 AM, November 29, 2014  

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