Is it just us, or does HBO seem to be becoming a lot more auteur-driven as of late? Their three big commissions for 2012 were Lena Dunham’s “Girls,” Armando Iannucci’s “Veep,” and Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom,” and then they co-produced Ricky Gervais’ “Life’s Too Short” with the BBC. All of those shows very definitely bear the mark of their creator and said creators are all very hands on in all of those cases. That trend looks set to continue with HBO picking up the pilot for a new comedy called “Hello Ladies.”
The project has been co-written by Stephen Merchant with former writer-producers of the U.S. “The Office” Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (who also penned “Bad Teacher“), and will also be directed by and star Merchant. The series as described by Deadline will star Merchant as “a gawky Englishman searching for the woman of his dreams in Los Angeles. Half as charming as he thinks he is – and twice as desperate – he’s obsessed with infiltrating the glamorous world of the beautiful people. Unfortunately the beautiful people won’t let him in.” So, it’s kind of like “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People: The Series” then?
Merchant rose to prominence after writing and creating “The Office” with Ricky Gervais, and the pair have worked together on most of their television projects (and their big-screen outing “Cemetery Junction”) since. Merchant got a starring role in “Extras” and popped up as himself in “Life’s Too Short,” and has had his most notable big-screen roles in “Tooth Fairy” and “Hall Pass.” Some might argue that Gervais and Merchant have always done their best work together, but we’re glad to see that it’s Merchant rather than Gervais for once who’s getting a chance to make it big alone. The premise sounds like the perfect vehicle for Merchant’s “lanky goggle-eyed freak” routine to work its hilarious magic.