Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 18, 2015)
Most people known Stephen Merchant for his roles as Ricky Gervais’s pal on series like Extras. With 2013’s Hello Ladies, Merchant gets the chance to shine on his own.
This three-DVD set includes all eight episodes of Ladies from 2013. It also provides a 2014 movie with the same characters/themes.
Pilot: “Bumbling English transplant Stuart Pritchard (Merchant) hits the LA nightclub scene in search of romance.” With its hapless lead, Ladies doesn’t earn any points for originality. Still, it manages a reasonable amount of laughs. I’m not sure how much faith I have in the series’ ability to remain interesting given its potential to become predictable, but so far, it offers reasonable amusement.
The Limo: “Stuart tries to win over Jessica’s (Christine Woods) friends by commandeering a limo Wade (Nate Torrence) hired to impress his estranged wife Marion (Crista Flanagan).” Does “Limo” expand its situations from the “Pilot”? A little, partially because it makes Stuart look like even more of a superficial schmuck. In a more substantial vein, it allows growth to Stuart’s roommate Jessica. I’m guessing the show eventually connects those two, but we’ll see.
The Date: “Stuart asks out a yoga studio employee; Glenn (Sean Wing) gets Jessica an audition; Wade institutes an emergency alert system.” Going into Ladies, I figured it’d be a commentary on modern dating, but the first two shows focused so much on models and actresses that it didn’t connect to the real world. “Date” manages to deliver more of what I anticipated, and that allows it to become the best episode to date.
The Dinner: “As Stuart hits the gay club circuit with Jessica, Wade and Kives (Kevin Weisman) have fun in Stuart’s apartment.” So much for reality-based material, as “Dinner” goes back to the world of Stuart’s obsession with models – and one he sees on a billboard in particular. This gives the show a potential theme/goal, but I still like it more as a take on “normal dating”. Still, more than a few funny bits emerge, so it’s entertaining.
Pool Party: “Stuart plans an epic pool party; Jessica befriends a 19-year-old homeless girl (Rosa Salazar).” Like the prior episodes, “Party” musters good humor, but it stretches story elements thinner than I’d like. This especially becomes true for Jessica’s narrative, as it makes no sense that she’d take in a strange homeless girl. Jessica already seems like an imitation Elaine Benes, and “Party” doesn’t change that impression.
Long Beach: “Stuart has a night on the town in Long Beach; Wade tries to win back Marion; Jessica evaluates her life.” This show offers another contrived premise, as it stretches reality to plop Stuart among some rough and tumble guys. This makes little sense and lacks much amusement. A few gags do score, but overall, this becomes a weak show.
The Wedding: “Stuart is disappointed with the seating plan at a wedding; Jessica frets about the result of a major audition.” As I started to review Ladies, I worried it’d grow tiresome and redundant. “Wedding” demonstrates this to be true, as it reinforces the series’ problems: predictable gags and contrived situations. Despite a couple of laughs, “Wedding” mostly flails.
The Drive: “Stuart brags about his date with Kimberly (Heather Hahn); Jessica relishes that the tables have turned with Amelia (Jenny Slate).” Matters limp to a close with “Drive”. The Wade/Marion plot always felt superfluous, and that doesn’t change here. Other developments seem less than enthralling as well. Even with the usual smattering of funny bits, this winds up as a lackluster episode with too many predictable moments.
The Movie: “When Stuart’s former girlfriend Trudy (Henrietta Meire) comes to visit LA, Stuart pretends to have a relationship with Jessica to make his ex feel jealous.” Apparently Movie exists to wrap up the series, and in that regard, it’s satisfactory. No one should expect surprises, though, as the finale follows a path one could anticipate. It acts as a passable way to end the characters’ arcs and that’s about it.