Will ‘Hello Ladies’ Help Demolish The Myth Of The Nice Guy?

In all of Sunday night’s appointment television hoopla, you may have missed the quiet but devastating premiere of HBO’s Hello Ladies, a new half-hour comedy series from U.K. comedian Stephen Merchant. As with his Ricky Gervais collaborations, The Office and Extras, the show mines laughs from squirm-inducing situations and ghastly social missteps—but is there a deeper critique lurking under the slapstick?

Merchant’s character, a British web designer named Stuart who has relocated to Los Angeles, is out to start a relationship (or maybe just snag a one-night stand). He fits the so-called “nice guy” mold of someone women keep in the “friend zone,” who gets frustrated that “assholes” seem to have a monopoly on sex. But as the Internet never tires of pointing out, dudes who consider themselves nice guys are often creepy, stalkerish, misogynist dicks.   
 
Stuart may not have sunk to the depths of OkCupid monsters in the pilot, and we’re clearly meant to feel some sympathy as he eats yet another microwaved dinner alone, but the Brits have always excelled at self-loathing and self-evisceration, and this doesn’t feel like an exception. The title itself highlights the truth—Stuart doesn’t talk to women with anything like the respect they deserve, his ulterior motives always show, and he’s desperate enough that it doesn’t seem to make much difference who he has in his sights. No wonder nice guys finish last.
 

Confirmed: B.J. Novak’s Book Is Garbage

I don’t know what it is about semi-famous people that makes them think they can write a book. Even a TV writer isn’t particularly well-equipped to fashion sentences that work best on the page. Case in point: the simply awful-sounding volume forthcoming from The Office writer B.J. Novak, for which Knopf allegedly paid a cool seven figures. Move over, Jonah Lehrer—there’s a new worst book in town.

This intel comes courtesy of an account of a reading Novak did in Paris, at the English-language bookstore Shakespeare & Co., every single detail of which is cause for cringing. He “spent over a year writing up a collection of ‘Woody Allen-esque’ short stories,” some of which “were essentially one-line jokes stretched out into two or three pages.” He also, unbelievably, mentioned that Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was his “favorite book of the last decade," which, wow, way to really think about it.
 
The stories apparently concern fame, celebrity, and absurdity—fair enough. But even by this attendee’s admission, Novak is more of a stand-up comedian, trying to make mere set-ups into fiction and looking for an easy laugh just by using Johnny Depp as a character. Most of these "stories" sound essentially unfinished, and about as amusing as the New Yorker’s Borowitz Report. Sorry, dude. Maybe one day Ricky Gervais will come up with another sitcom you can run into the ground.

Watch a ‘Six Feet Under’ Style Goodbye to ‘The Office’

As all good things must come to their rightful end, tonight marks the very last episode of treasured television series, The Office. After nine wonderful years on the air and many a cast member iteration, the beloved show will now leave us to join the ranks of 30 Rock in NBC afterlife. And although i will miss my Dwight and Pam and Jim and the rest of Dunder Mufflin dearly, after almost a decade strong, there’s only so many stories to tell in a Scanton, PA paper company—better to cut things short before our love starts to wane.

 
And today, the good folks over at Vulture have made their own tribute to The Office with an homage to the fatally brilliant series finale of HBO’s once beloved Six Feet Under. It was emotionally killer ending and wrapped up the series in the most perfect way. So now, you can get a taste of the Office clans’ own timely endings.
 
Watch for yourself below.
 

John Krasinski Will Be Making an Appearance on ‘Arrested Development’

We’ve all been patiently drinking our juice and counting down the days until Netflix unveils Arrested Development‘s revived new season on May 26th. And as the cult comedy was wont to do, the fifteen new episodes look to be chock-full of guest appearances—from Henry Winkler reprising his role as Barry Zuckerkorn and Scott Baio’s Bob Loblaw to  Liza Minelli as the vertigo-ridden Lucille Austero. And now, it appears that everyone’s favorite Office dude John Krasinski will be making a cameo appearance on the show as well.

With The Office sadly ending for good on May 16th, it will be a nice treat to see that goofy ol’ face on our screens, even if we’re not sure just what his role will be. The details on his role are hush hush as of now, but in the season, he’ll be joined by everyone from Isla Fisher, Andy Richter, Kristen Wiig, Conan OBrien, John Slattery, Ben Stiller, and Seth Rogen as guests.

So in the meantime, prepare yourself for the new season with some bloopers from the past.

 

 

Imagine What Could Have Been With the Original Casting Sheet for ‘The Office’

We’ve all seen the initial casting options for The Godfather, but what’s even more unfathomable than Dusty Horffamn playing Michael Corleone is the recently revealed original sign-in sheet from the first day of auditions for The Office, a list which is totally cool and hilarious to think about. 

Rainn Wilson posted a photo of the list on Facebook yesterday, saying, "This is the original sign-in sheet for the first day of casting for The Office given to me by Allison Jones, our incredible casting agent…I was the very first person to audition for the series, 11/06/03. Notice all the amazing talent on the sheet, including the amazing #13! This is perhaps the greatest Office keepsake I have. So grateful for the best job I will ever have"—signed "Rain ‘Benedict Cumberbatch’ Wilson."

It’s hard to imagine a Dwight Schrute more ridiculous and wonderful than Wilson but if there was ever man to take it over it’s pretty great to imagine it as UCB legend Matt Besser in the role. Mary Lynn Rajskub was one of the options for Pam, which totally makes sense, but Hamish Linklater has Jim?! Nope! Adam Scott, okay yeah maybe but then would he ever have found his Leslie Knope? 

And where would Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Steve Carell, and whole cast be right now if they handed landed the role? Would Wilson always be remebered as that dud who worked at Rolling Stone in Almost Famous or for his creepy stint as Arthur Martin on Six Feet Under

Take a look below.

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Ricky Gervais Resurrects David Brent

Obnoxious as Ricky Gervais is about hammering his opinions/worldview and acting like his giant ego is not such a problem just because he’s winkingly aware of it, it’s hard to deny the flat-out awesomeness of the best episodes of Extras, Life’s Too Short, andThe Office. Plus, we owe the man a huge debt for dragging Karl Pilkington into the limelight. So I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt right here.

Gervais is bringing back David Brent, the grotesque manager of The Office later given a too-sympathetic American spin by Steve Carell in the reboot, as a sort of ten-year anniversary treat. According to EW, Brent will feature “in a ‘mini episode’ called The Office Revisited.” You can watch a teaser below, which redirects you to a longer trailer. (You may also skip right to the longer trailer.)

The focus looks to be on Brent’s music “career,” which bodes well—and as a guy who would delude himself about a comeback, he’s the perfect parallel for Ricky himself, trying to recapture some of his old magic. But Steve Coogan may have covered some of this ground already with Alan Partridge.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

Linkage: You Will Not See Kim Kardashian Give Birth, Harvey Weinstein Is Not the Antichrist

When the news broke that Kim Kardashian is expecting Kanye West’s baby, I’m sure I’m not the only one who assumed that a birthing special would find its way on E! at some point. That is where we are as a society: it makes perfect sense that we’d have the opportunity to watch a human come out of Kim Kardashian. (Hell, a lot of us have seen a human go into Kim Kardashian.) But, thankfully, the mom-to-be has announced that the birth will be private, and she’s looking forward to not working for a while. Think about that as you click through the internet, desperate to leave your office and not work for a few hours before returning tomorrow morning! [Jezebel]

We also live in a world where Harvey Weinstein can declare that he is not the Antichrist in front of a room full of people and no one bats an eye. [THR]

I’ve shit-talked a lot of famous people on the Internet in my time, but very few of them have contacted me to call me out on it. Note to self: never make fun of Richard Marx on your blog. He has a Google alert and he knows how to use it. [The Morning News]

At a show at Brooklyn’s Bell House, Community creator Dan Harmon recruited Saturday Night Live’s Jason Sudeikis to prank call Chevy Chase in character as Joe Biden. It’s about as funny as it sounds. [Vulture]

The Office’s former workers B.J. Novak, Mindy Kaling, and Zach Woods will all be making appearances in the final episodes of the sitcom, but Steve Carrell won’t be returning to his old workplace. [Paste]

I’m not sure why this is news, or even why I’m repeating it as if it’s interesting, but: the son of the guy who created Barney was charged with murder. Now, I get it if he allegedly stomped someone to death or ate them. You know, like a dinosaur would do. [TMZ]

Vogue’s upcoming issue features a Hurricane Sandy-themed fashion shoot called “Storm Troupers.” Puns! It has made a lot of people angry. [Gawker]

My Headlines? My Headlines Seem So Smart But I’m Also Scared About My Headlines. [The Awl]

Dear Abby will be giving unsolicited advice in Heaven. [E!]

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Sorry Schrute-Heads, You’re Not Getting An ‘Office’ Spinoff

NBC has taken its sitcoms to some strange places lately, from a veterinary office led by Justin Kirk (Animal Practice, we hardly knew ye) to inside the mind of Ryan Murphy, a land of many stereotypes and occasional unfunny racist remarks. One place NBC will not be going, however, is the rustic landscape of a beet farm in rural Pennsylvania. NBC has pulled the plug on The Farm, a proposed spinoff of The Office focusing on life on Assistant (to the) Regional Manager Dwight Schrute’s family farm and introducing all his wacky family members (now with 100% more Cousin Mose!).

Rainn Wilson and co. shot a pilot for the show, and it may be broadcast this season as something of a bonus episode of The Office, now in its final season and approaching the finish line. Wilson’s response to NBC passing on the show was uncharacteristic of Dwight in its upbeat nature, as he tweeted to fans: "Farm Update: NBC has passed on moving forward with The Farm TV show. Had a blast making the pilot – onwards & upwards!"

But we’ll always have the memories of Dwight Schrute’s many office shenanigans, including one of our favorites, his, Mussolini-inspired speech at the Northeastern Pennsylvania Salesman of the Year ceremony. Blood alone moves the wheels of history. (The video quality is less than stellar, but at least decent enough to relive those classic lines.)

Mindy Kaling Is a Fashion-Forward, Comedic Superstar Adrift in a Sea of Sweatpants

Great comedy writers are often regarded for their quick wit and sharp sociopolitical commentary and rarely for their forward-thinking fashion sense. It’s not that writers are incapable of dressing well, but they usually don’t. Writing jokes is a career of sweatpants and sweat stains. Mindy Kaling—who makes the transition from The Office to her own show, The Mindy Project, debuting on Fox this fall—is an exception. She’s a wickedly funny writer who knows what to wear and how to wear it.

When she meets me at her office at Universal Studios, Kaling is dressed upscale casual. You can tell she takes time to dress, but she still looks comfortable. She has on a Smythe blazer, a popular pick for office meetings. “Though I’m intimidated by fashion,” Kaling says, “I really love shopping. Most of my friends just wear samples from their other friends’ fashion lines, but I would be miserable if I couldn’t shop.” Kaling’s love of retail therapy, she says, “is the first indicator that I’m not one of these super–intense fashion people.” Though she doesn’t buy into the insanity of the label-obsessed, she is remarkably influential.

More so than many television actors—certainly more so than comedic actors and definitely more so than comedic television actors who are not the standard sample size—Kaling has been vocal about her love of fashion. Though now defunct, her blog Things I Bought That I Love, was a space which she chronicled everything from sour candy to Christian Louboutin shoes. And its more recent iteration, The Concerns of Mindy Kaling, which reaches her 25,000 Facebook fans and nearly 1.8 million Twitter followers, is an eclectic look at what makes Kaling tick. It’s not just about the clothes she buys, but the shows she watches, the way she decorates her house, and what to buy for hard-to-shop-for guys. (Whiskey stones and leather coasters?)

Like her characters on The Office but with a somewhat bigger budget, Kaling has an unabashed enthusiasm for what she wears and a funny way of expressing it. “My sense of style is ‘new money’.” Kaling explains, laughing. “I love the aesthetic, like I just received disposable income, and more is more. It’s really fun.” She name-checks Helmut Lang (“always looks flattering and amazing on virtually anybody”) and her friend Charlotte Ronson (“super cute but completely casual”). Sometimes Kaling accessorizes with bright-colored costume jewelry: she’s a big fan of Tarina Tarantino’s work.

Kaling’s style has been called “quirky,” a label she’s not sure she likes. “I don’t think of myself and my style as quirky at all,” she says. “People call me quirky because I’m Indian. But I’m not wearing dresses from the ’40s or doing the hula hoop. The only thing quirky about me is that I have dark skin.”

The relationship between fashion and comedy isn’t readily apparent—comedy is generally about wearing what works, and fashion is, more often than not, the butt of jokes. But Kaling is among a new class of comedians sewing the two together: “If you’re fashionable, I don’t think people think you’re going to be less funny, not anymore,” Kaling says. “Maya Rudolph and Kristen [Wiig] are total fashion girls. They’re always rocking really cool looks by really cool designers, but I don’t think anyone thinks they’re less hilarious because of it.” Nevertheless, she admits, “I work with a bunch of dudes, at The Office more than even this job, and if you wear something a little bit too out there, or you even wear high heels to work, everyone assumes you have a super hot date that night.” It follows that comedy writers wouldn’t necessarily appreciate haute couture in the same way a designer might not get Judd Apatow movies. At its heart is the judgment that surrounds fashion as a pursuit—that a person should not only be criticized for bold fashion choices, but instead judged for caring at all. “Often,” she says, “if a character spends a lot of time on fashion or how they look, it is an indication that they are not a good person.”

This prejudice extends into the traditionally male sphere of writers’ rooms, which places undue pressure on women writers to underplay their girly traits for anything but laughs. “Most women I know—strong, smart, educated, funny women—are also interested in finding love or losing weight, or clothes,” Kaling remarks. “But if you’re doing a show, you’re told you can’t ever talk about those real things, or it behooves you not to talk about those real things, because it means that you’re not strong. But that’s crazy to me.”

In her 2011 book of personal essays, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Kaling’s penchant for fashion and deep-seated insecurity has been wildly successful. And on The Mindy Project it blossoms even more. “Because the show is so personal, I have this nice advantage,” Kaling says happily, “When I have a personal taste thing, I get to do what I want. This wasn’t always the case at The Office.”

The Mindy Project doesn’t just reflect Kaling’s voice—in many ways, it mirrors her look. “I’ve always thought it was really cool when you watch TV or movies, and you notice something that was a great choice in terms of fashion, or even set decoration,” she explains. “I don’t want this to look like just another one of those comedies where everyone is wearing logo-less color blocking.” Of course, Kaling’s desire for specificity clashes with the legal and financial hurdles of producing television. She notes that if she wanted to have a movie poster in the back of a shot—Kaling has two on her office walls, Hannah and Her Sisters and You’ve Got Mail—all the brand names would have to be cleared, a lengthy and expensive financial process. “You are incentivized to make things as unspecific and bland as possible,” Kaling laments. “What’s great about my show is I said, right from the top, ‘No, I want things to be noticeable.’ I want people to say, ‘Oh, I’ve seen that. Oh, I understand that.’ I think that’s cool.”

The Mindy Project will likely bring Kaling new fans—and change the opinions of those who know her only as The Office’s Kelly Kapoor, whom Kaling calls “a mean 14-year-old girl.” On the new series, Mindy plays “a flawed person, a really funny person… an adult who can act a little childish sometimes.” Her name is Mindy, too. The character will be more true to the life of the real Mindy Kaling. She will, therefore, be very well–dressed.

Follow Louis Peitzman on Twitter.