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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

On the Next Episode of The Lead

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November 15th, 2013
12:33 PM ET

Say 'hello' to Stephen Merchant

Is your DVR selection for Sunday night thinning out a bit since the end of "Breaking Bbad? Sure, there's football, "The Walking Dead," "Homeland," but couch potatoes need options. The Lead is here to help. HBO has another little gem on its schedule, called "Hello Ladies".

The creator and star of the show is Stephen Merchant, and if you don't know him, you definitely know his hits. Merchant and writing partner Ricky Gervais are the creative team behind "The Office." Merchant also had a small but memorable on-screen role on the British version of the series, playing "the oggmonster," and as Gervais' agent in the HBO series "Extras."

Merchant describes the characters he and Gervais have played as "delusional."

"The thing that always has amused me in comedy is people with a lack of self-awareness ... and that just for some reason always makes me laugh. I always find characters with those flaws funnier ... than a nice guy who just makes some jokes occasionally," said Merchant.

Merchant's latest role fits that mold. He plays Stuart, a web designer looking for love in Los Angeles, and failing miserably at it, in the eight episode HBO series "Hello Ladies" – his first sitcom without Gervais.

Starring in his own show was "very organic," Merchant says, helped along by his stand-up routine.

"I realized most of the stories I was telling on stage were sort of romantic misfortune. And the show was called, "Hello, Ladies," and then I did it in L.A., and someone from HBO came along and said, 'Would you think about it as a sitcom?'" said Merchant.

Merchant's character embraces the idea of trying to be something he's not, to win the hearts of ladies, a characteristic the comedian took from his own love life.

"He's far more – I hope far more flawed than I am, and less self-aware than I am. But he has many of the same traits, you know, he tries too hard," said Merchant. "I've long suffered from just trying too hard, trying to sort of be someone I'm not, trying to be cooler, trying to be sexier, trying to be James Bond."

"And I'm fundamentally not James Bond," says Merchant.

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