The latest episode of Stephen Merchant’s ‘Hello Ladies’, The Dinner, is perhaps the most fully realised and well executed outing to date in the series. The episode hits upon some great comic moments whilst also managing to make the episode’s subplots feel less like filler, and more like avenues through which the world and characters of ‘Hello Ladies’ can be fleshed out and expanded upon.
The Dinner succeeds from the very start by tying together Stuart and Jessica’s characters into their own single story, previous episodes have let me down in the way that the supporting characters’ storylines can feel quite unnecessary in the grand scheme of things, as they seem to feel less important than Stuart’s plight. This week’s subplot featuring Wade and Kives however manages to avoid this trapping of dullness by allowing it to flesh out Stuart, giving his actions, both this week and previously, a context and weight that was beginning to feel sorely needed.
Another success of this particular episode comes down to the comedic departure taken in Stuart, no longer was he embarrassing himself trying to pick up ladies, but rather he was embarrassing himself just attempting to be a charming houseguest. It may be a distinction bordering on the trivial considering that, after all, he is just trying to charm and impress so he can pick up a lady, but it gives the episode a certain feeling of freshness as Stuart’s predaciousness becomes more distant from his as a character. No longer does he seem desperate for want of some ‘female interaction’, but rather he seems desperate for want of company, to be somebody, and it makes him seem all the more likeable.
The episode is at its best when Stuart and Jessica are allowed to play off one another, what’s particularly fun to see is how they use each other for their own personal gain, as if they exist as some sort of strange symbiotic relationship in which neither party benefits. Jessica’s one-upmanship with her counterpart began to feel a tad tiresome as the episode progressed, however the extended tap sequence was a satisfyingly cringey conclusion to her comedic outing this week and I felt relieved that it didn’t overstay its welcome, allowing Stuart to take the stage for his great weekly blunder.
One thing I wait for anxiously each week is for something to finally go right for Stuart, this episode has done a great service in turning him into a more likeable character, given his downfall was simply him trying to be the funniest guy in the room rather than him trying desperately to get into a lady’s pants, surprisingly his intentions felt far more noble than they have in the past, possibly due to the lady-seeking being placed far less prominently. This, in combination with Wade and Kives’ tragic discovery, makes me feel and hope that there is something greater in plan for Stuart this season, I recognise that the show is seeking to make him a more sympathetic character as it progresses, however after all this cringing at his expense, his moment of glory just can’t come soon enough for me.
All in all, a great episode with very little to criticise, I can only hope the series continues to deliver episodes such as these, an appealing main plot with a subplot that expands upon the Hello Ladies universe, fleshing out and adding layers to their characters. I wouldn’t hesitate to say this is the best episode of Hello Ladies to date and, given the show seems to be improving week after week, I eagerly await Stuart’s bumbling return in next week’s ‘Pool Party’.