“House of Lies”: Equal Parts Fun & Flawed

Written by Mitchell B January 19, 2012

“House of Lies” is the newest series from premium cable giant Showtime, the same channel that has brought us the likes of “Californication”, “Dexter”, and many other successful series. “Lies” revolves around Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle), an incredibly successful, but self-loathing, management consultant who travels from job to job with his team of lackeys. The team includes the talented Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Veronica Mars), Ben Schwartz (Jean-Ralphio from Parks & Recreation) and relative unknown Josh Lawson. Together they work hard to take as much money from large corporations as possible, all the while partying and having as much sex as they can. “Lies” is equal parts fun and flawed, so let’s start with the flawed.

After two episodes we have learned very little about the show’s main characters. Aside from Cheadle, who is also the father of a cross-dressing son, the rest of the team are almost like pylons. They stand behind Cheadle as he delivers speeches and jokes, often piping in with their own witty one-liners, but that’s essentially it. There are two things we know about these characters: they work as management consultants, and they like to party. As an audience it’s difficult to become invested in one-dimensional characters, particularly ones with very few redeeming qualities.

“Lies” also has a problem with style over substance. There are a few too many direct-address moments, courtesy of Cheadle, most of which explain the ‘consultant lingo’, but they generally fall flat and come across as an attempt to be different and in-your-face! Rather than introduce the audience to the realities of the consulting world, which seems like an interesting concept for a series, the episodes are filled with a lot of jargon and mass amounts of sex. For a series that is just starting off, I can give them a break for trying to grab the audience’s attention. It’s almost like those cards that read: “FREE BEER! Now that I have your attention….” They throw the sex and alcohol at you to get you to watch and once they have your attention, they can start with the interesting aspect of the show (At least I hope that’s the plan). And if that’s not their intention, the show might just be okay anyway.

Though the show has many flaws, there is one thing about it that is undeniable: it’s entertaining. Cheadle is brilliant as the leader of the gang, using everything and everyone in his power to close the deal and make money. Ben Schwartz plays a more intelligent version of Jean-Ralphio, and Kristen Bell has great comedic timing and chemistry with Cheadle. The jokes are well written and well delivered, and as a group they seem to be having a lot of fun, which makes it that much more enjoyable to watch them interact. “Lies” also benefits from a brisk-pace that makes the thirty-minute runtime disappear in an instant. There may be other reasons to turn it off, but boredom is unlikely to be one of them.

The bottom line about “House of Lies” is that it isn’t perfect. At this stage it isn’t really sure what it wants to be: a breezy sex comedy or a comical look at the world of management consultants? Whichever route it chooses, I can see it sticking around for a few seasons, as it has a very similar feel to “Californication” (replace writer with consultant). If you’re looking for something that requires some thought, “House of Lies” in its current form is likely not for you. However, if you’re looking to turn your brain off and simply be entertained, then give “House of Lies” a chance.

My Rating: 7/10

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