TV Review - House of Lies

Ben Schwartz (far left), Don Cheadle (middle),
and Kristen Bell (rear) in "House of Lies"
I try not to judge a TV series based on only one episode, particularly the premiere, but this feels like a show I won't want to revisit. It stars Don Cheadle as Marty Kaan, a management consultant, based out of Los Angeles. He flies to New York to land a hated, Wall Street firm as a client, and, as I watched Marty, I came to dislike him more and more, not necessarily for what he was doing but how he was doing it.

Unlikeable characters in TV shows and movies aren't new. Some work and others don't. Marty Kaan doesn't work for me. I love Don Cheadle. I even loved that the first image of him is his naked ass and hairy chest, an image not seen since Crash (2005), at least the potential of which. It's indicative of the fact that one of Marty's driving forces is sex.

Throughout this episode's 34 minutes, sex or sexuality overruns every scene and almost every moment that it's almost suffocating. First, Marty's son, Roscoe, is auditioning for the musical Grease but for a girl's role. He later asks his dad to go shoe shopping. The implication is that Roscoe is gay. Marty chooses to ignore it and just go with whatever his son wants. Marty's father, Jeremiah, who inexplicably lives with them, criticizes Marty's parenting very sarcastically and at times brutally.

Marty goes to Manhattan with three of his associates. One of which is Clyde, played by Ben Schwartz who has proven himself a great comedic actor by way of his role in Parks and Recreation, but the one who gets the most dialogue in this first episode is Jeannie, played by Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars and Heroes). The reason she gets the most dialogue is because, as Marty states, he wants to have sex with her.

When that doesn't work, he hires a stripper, though spending the night with her isn't enough, so he goes on a double date with his potential boss named Greg Norbert, played by Greg Germann (Ned and Stacey and Ally McBeal) and Greg's wife. The stripper named April ends up hooking up with the Wall Street wife in a lesbian realization moment. It's not that all this sex and sexuality are individually bad but added all together it's a little insufferable. The straw that breaks the camel's back is when Marty would rather have sex with the mom of his son's classmate then help his son with his role in Grease.

Forget that this show is basically the Mad Men of the post-2008 Wall Street financial crisis, or Marty and his associates are the fixers for a firm similar to the one in Margin Call (2011). The most annoying aspect is Cheadle's constant winks at the camera. They're actually more than just winks. It's not like what you get in The Office or Parks and Recreation.

The show will freeze frame and Cheadle will step away to literally speak directly to the camera, making random commentary or explaining terms. This tactic is often accomplished with voice-over narration, probably most effectively in Arrested Development, but rarely does someone step away to speak directly into the camera, at least not on a regular basis. Saved By The Bell was one example of a TV series that did.

The final scene of the episode opens up potential that Cheadle's character may not continue being so annoying and insufferable, but I won't hold my breath. I'd sooner watch re-runs of Saved By The Bell, Boy Meets World, Malcolm in the Middle or It's Garry Shandling's Show, which were all shows that made breaking the fourth wall into an art form.

One Star Out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DSLV.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Sundays at 10PM on Showtime.


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