Season Analysis: Stephen Merchant’s semi-autobiographical take on the single life in L.A. struggled with its tone in its first and only season, but it was quite lovely when it embraced its heart, and whenever Kyle Mooney was on screen.

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“The Drive”
I tend to be wary about unresolved sexual tension that is present right at the start of a new show.  It is not that I don’t like romance on my sitcoms, nor that I don’t think it should be drawn out.  I like both of those things – when done well.  But when there is a mildly combative platonic relationship in a pilot episode, it just screams, “These two are going to end up together, and that is that!”  Inevitability – entertaining inevitability – cannot be forced.  Luckily, Stephen Merchant and Christine Woods (as Stuart and his roommate/tenant Jessica) had plenty of chemistry right from the start, with a mildly teasing repartee serving as a feature of a real friendship.  The problem with Hello Ladies was that Stuart’s shallow ladykilling attempts always felt like an act forced in to ramp up the cringeworthiness.  There was clearly a sweet guy underneath all that bluster, and “The Drive” finally allowed that sweetness to shine through.  Instead of pursuing a model who was legitimately into him, Stuart chose instead to comfort Jessica after she was devastated by the news that her role on NCIS was being recast, because he simply knew how important it was to be a good friend at that moment.  The pathos shined through as Merchant let Hello Ladies settle down and allowed Stuart to just be who he really was.

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