Hello Ladies: “The Wedding” (Episode 1.07)Photo by Jaimie Trueblood, courtesy of HBO TV Reviews Hello Ladies
At the end of “The Wedding,” Stuart and Jessica are so exhausted and miserable with their lives that they actually have an honest conversation about how they feel. It’s one of the most touching scenes in the series, but it also has a more directed point in answering criticism about why it is exactly Stuart tries so hard and acts so different from himself when he’s trying to attract women. “I’ve been myself for 35 years and that’s gotten me nowhere,” he says, and it’s sadly easy to believe him. As their conversation drifts into flirting and dancing, it’s a brief moment of happiness in a show that dwells endlessly on the miserable, and as such it’s certain to come to an end very soon. But even so, it’s pretty glorious to behold, and it shows the possibility of what Hello Ladies could be if it wanted to, another warm, gentle show about friends looking for dates.
But what makes this conversation so memorable and moving is the fact that it was earned, that it wasn’t either the end of the series where Jessica and Stuart begin seeing each other. In fact, there’s still a pretty miserable part of the denouement left to play out. The dialogue and sentiments here are the most traditional the show has ever really featured, likewise making them one of the least unique parts of Hello Ladies, to the point that they come near cliche. But they don’t, because the show has put them and us through so much and the acting and writing is so perfect that it overcomes how typical this material is. The end of “The Wedding” was, for me, a sublime oasis in the show’s vast desert of unhappiness, and as such completely unforgettable.
The rest of “The Wedding” was nearly perfectly executed, too, though at this point the material shouldn’t be too much of a surprise for anyone who’s seen the rest of the season. Stuart and Jessica attend a wedding and generally make asses of themselves to the bridal party as well as the other guests (although to be fair to Stuart, the bride’s insistence on him sitting there seems sadistic at the very least). The most painful moments come from Jessica’s insistence that a playwright watch her web series right there, at the table with Jessica behind her, as we learn that her series is as bad as we’d always thought. Nothing goes right for them, in typical Hello Ladies fashion.
Then Stuart runs into the model he has a crush on, and to his surprise and delight she’s happy to see him. She’s also incredibly dumb and flighty, and eventually charges his room up with hundreds of dollars in room service and minibar fees only to kick him out of the room entirely so as to have sex with her boyfriend, who happens to be Kanye West’s DJ. It’s all pretty great material, and it culminates in that conversation I spoke of earlier, but even without that it’s the show at its best.
The biggest surprise from “The Wedding” wasn’t that conversation, though; it was what came after it. There was the return of Wade’s crushing loneliness, but aside from that it’s the first time Hello Ladies has ended on a positive note, with Jessica now cast as the lead for a primetime crime drama (the type with letters like N, C, I and S in the title arranged in whatever order seems fashionable at the time) and Stuart being asked out by the model. It’s an exciting change, and while it’s not completely uplifting, I’m very happy the show moved its characters and stories forward. This bodes well for next week’s season finale, and I’ll remain hopeful despite its chances that Hello Ladies gets picked up for a second season, even if I’m the only critic out there who seems to really care.
• This episode happened to be written and directed by two of the finest comedy minds in the history of television, and no I don’t mean Stephen Merchant with either of those designations. It was directed by the great Greg Daniels, i.e. the creator of Parks and Recreation, the American Office and King of the Hill, while it was written by the more obscure but equally talented Ron Weiner, who has had the incredible ability to jump from one of my favorite comedies to the next without fail. He was a writer on NewsRadio, Futurama, Arrested Development, 30 Rock and got his start on The Weird Al Show. Oh, he’s also an amazing musician, as you can see here.