House of Lies (Showtime)
Show: House of Lies (Showtime)
Type: Sit com, single-camera
Rating: R, sexual content, nudity
One line description: A team of marketing consultants do anything to get money from bloated corporations
Tone: Cynical, Sharp
Similar to: Entourage (in presentation), Free Agents (subject matter)
Starring: Don Cheadle, Kristin Bell, Ben Schwartz
Quality: Passable (50 range)
House of Lies - 101 - Gods of Dangerous Financial Instruments
I hope you guys are getting some value from the little score cards I'm including on the blog posts. In the case of Work It, it was easy for me to assign the show a quality rating. Despite only seeing one episode I am confident that the show could never be better than a certain level. With House of Lies I'm not so sure and have gone for the ultimate fence sitting score of 50. I have enough experience of television shows though to suspect that House of Lies probably won't get much better than a score in the 50s.
So the plot is that Don Cheadle is playing Marty Kaan, a highly successful and highly sexed marketing consultant. He manipulates his clients into paying him for hours of work and doesn't care whether he actually helps their companies or not. His estranged ex-wife is his major competitor. His pre-teen son is cross dressing. His ex-psychiatrist Dad lives with him. He sleeps with strippers, single moms and tries to seduce Jeannie (Bell).
That's quite a complicated character for a sit com isn't it? That's no obstacle to success. I would say Carrie Bradshaw (Sex in the City) pulled it off pretty well and I use her as an example because this is filmed in a similar style as opposed to say characters on Scrubs or Frasier who had fairly well rounded existences.
The problem is that Marty doesn't seem to have enough heart to him. The final shot of the episode sees him pause during a phone call when you think maybe, just maybe he is going to say something honest to Jeannie but he decides against it. Before that moment of doubt he doesn't falter in lying to everyone around him to succeed. He screws over everyone including his son to get what he wants. He is so callous that it feels very difficult to imagine liking him enough to make this show work.
I might be jumping to a conclusion too quickly but the show is built around his flaws in a way which worries me. Most of the attempts at humour came from him either being sexual or being selfish. I can't see the show giving up on that quickly.
To be fair we didn't see much of the supporting players (Schwartz was Jean-Ralphio on Parks and Recreation) but then again maybe we won't. The show is built around Marty to such an extent that he talks to the camera like Zach Morris on Saved by the Bell. Again it's hard to picture the gang eliciting much sympathy from the audience as they all seem happy to be essentially ripping off corporations that are already ripping off the public.
I almost laughed a couple of times but the humour needs work. The show did feel slick and the dialogue, despite the exaggerations felt pretty natural. Cheadle is very good in the main role bringing an energy to it that it needed. Showtime has spent some money on this too as it looked as good as Entourage or Shameless or a drama shot in the "real" world.
I will continue to watch as I am intrigued but if you are not a comedy obsessive I would skip until you hear otherwise.