Season One, Episode Eight
There was a lot of talk about Stephen Merchant’s Stuart being too mean, too uncaring about other people’s feelings and just a general douche. And while he did portray all of these things, he also occasionally showed a side of him that is tender and thoughtful. Even in scenes when he’s trying too hard, he can be considered more of a bumbling fool than someone who is downright cruel. But here, as the first season comes to an end, Stuart shows off his sensitive side, putting off something he wants and engaging in something more important.
Backing up a bit, “The Drive” picks up after “The Wedding” where both Stuart and Jessica are gleaming with great news. Jessica finally breaks through and is the new actress on NCIS: LA while Stuart is meeting up with Kimberly, the gorgeous model who used Stuart’s room from the last episode. Even Wade is feeling cool and confident as he also looks forward to a night of partying with his friends. Wade’s sort-of-ex-wife notices the change and for the first time, seems like the tables have turned. He’s not begging her to give their marriage another try, and that’s incredibly appealing.
But it wouldn’t be an episode of Hello Ladies with many speed bumps along the way. Kimberly practically takes Stuart (driving his friends) on a scavenger hunt from club to party to party trying to catch up to her. And like Stuart, he has a one-track mind: meet with Kimberly and then hook up with her. It’s been Stuart’s dream to hook up with a model all season long, and this is the closest he’s come. It’s hard to root against him just because it’s clear that he wants this badly, but you suspect that this isn’t going to work out.
It’s surprising that Stuart is the one that does end up having a chance at obtaining his dream. He finally meets up with Kimberly and they talk, flirt, drink shots, and spend alone time on the beach. She strips and dives into the ocean and asks Stuart to join her. Merchant does some great subtle acting here, showing off his excitement but covered with the nervousness a guy like him would have. But on top of it all, he’s concerned for Jessica who has just been replaced on NCIS. He’s about to strip down and join Kimberly in the ocean, but his conscious gets the better of him and he leaves to be alongside Jessica.
It’s tasteful and incredibly touching stuff, something Hello Ladies has only shown its last two episodes of the season. What I found interesting was how Stuart’s presence wasn’t something Jessica needed immediately. He could’ve swam in the ocean with Kimberly, dried up, then visited Jessica before bed and we still would’ve considered it generous behavior. But Stuart drops everything just to make sure she’s okay, and he even allows her to pick the movie! That’s some damn sweet stuff.
On top of Stuart and Jessica, Wade gets a dose of reality from the two in separate occasions. They attempt to tell Wade that his marriage isn’t worth saving and how sometimes, no matter how hard you try and want something, it doesn’t work out. Wade takes Stuart’s advice and removes his wife from the picture on his phone. Who would’ve thought Stuart would dish out some useful advice on this series! Not me, but this could be the start of a new type of Hello Ladies, one that allows its cringe-comedy to stand out but not over-power the series. The Office with Steve Carell was able to balance this sort of comedy very well, and we all know how successful that show was.
The stars here do shine brightly, as Stephen Merchant and Christine Woods share a chemistry that is certainly worth revisiting (hopefully for another season). Surely their story-line isn’t over as they have plenty more embarrassing situations to be trapped in, but at least now we have the foundation that no matter how miserable each of them fail, they have each other to fall back on. Whether it’s Jessica teaching Stuart to dance at the wedding, or Stuart blowing off a model to watch a movie with Jessica, the blueprint for a very good comedy has finally been established.
Season Grade: B+