Stephen Merchant's arsenal of talents seems to know no bounds. He became a huge star in the UK after co-creating, co-writing, co-directing, and appearing in the British (and original) version of The Office with Ricky Gervais. American audiences may recognize him from numerous appearances in both British (Hot Fuzz) and American (Hall Pass) films, or perhaps the stand-up special he performed last year, Stephen Merchant: Hello Ladies...Live!
Like many of his cohorts and counterparts, including Gervais (Ghost Town, The Invention of Lying), Merchant has constantly looked to crossover to the mainstream American market, both in TV and film. Unsurprisingly, his latest venture is getting the green light from HBO.
Deadline is reporting that the network has placed an eight-episode order for Hello Ladies, a comedy series based on material from his stand-up special of the same name. HBO will produce in association with ABC, who holds an overall deal with Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, the writing and producing duo best known for their work on the American Office. They co-wrote the pilot episode for Hello Ladies with Merchant and will serve as executive producers for the series.
The new show will serve as Merchant's first starring-vehicle in America. He will play a character he is very familiar with - an awkward, insecure Englishman who has a hard time finding his dream girl in the glamorous and glitzy Los Angeles social scene. His character is obsessed with the lives of beautiful people, yet he can't find a way into their world. Alongside Merchant, the pilot starred Christine Woods (FlashForward), Kevin Weisman (Alias), and Nate Torrence (She's Out of My League).
Hello Ladies also marks a milestone for the writing and producing team of Eisenberg and Stupnitsky, as it is one of four shows that they currently have in production. They sold an adaptation of the film they wrote, Bad Teacher, to CBS, and are involved with two other shows for ABC, including an adaptation of the British series Pulling, which they are executive producing, and a pilot for Trophy Wife starring Malin Ackerman (The Watchmen).
We'll have to wait and see whether Hello Ladies becomes a hit with American audiences, but considering the talent on board, HBO's backing, and the often hilarious fish-out-of-water premise, prospects are looking good for the show. You can also see more of Merchant in the upcoming comedy Movie 43.