EXCLUSIVE: HBO has given an eight-episode series order to Hello Ladies, its comedy pilot co-written, directed by and starring Stephen Merchant. The project, which The Office co-creator co-wrote with former Office writer-producers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, stars the 6 foot-7 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 beautiful people. Unfortunately the beautiful people won’t let him in. Merchant, who also explored the theme in his Hello Ladies standup show last year, Eisenberg and Stupnitsky executive produce the series, which HBO is producing in association with ABC Studios. Eisenberg and Stupnitsky are under an overall deal at ABC Studios, which blessed their involvement in the project, including its sale to HBO. The Hello Ladies pilot co-starred Christine Woods, Nate Torrence and Kevin Weisman.
On the feature side, Eisenberg and Stupnitsky, repped by WME and Mosaic, co-wrote box-office hit Bad Teacher. The duo has had a great run in TV the last few months with Hello Ladies, another pilot order at ABC with Trophy Wife, written and executive produced by Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins and starring Malin Ackerman, an adaptation of the British series Pulling for ABC which they are writing/executive producing, and a Bad Teacher half-hour adaptation at CBS penned by Hilary Winston.
Writer-actor-standup comedian Merchant is best known for his collaborations with Ricky Gervais. The duo co-created The Office, Extras and Life’s Too Short, the last two co-produced and airing in the U.S. on HBO. Additionally, WME-repped Merchant co-starred opposite Gervais on Extras. In addition to Hello Ladies, HBO recently gave a straight-to-series order to Christopher Guest’s Family Tree starring Chris O’Dowd. The network’s pilots also include comedy Getting On and dramas Criminal Justice starring James Gandolfini and Charles Randolph’s Cold War spy drama pilot.