April 3, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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After a full season, it’s still not clear just what HOUSE OF LIES is.
The season finale, written and directed by series creator Matthew Carnahan, centered on what became the show’s main storyline in the latter part of its run:  the attempted takeover of the management consulting firm that employs Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle) and his “pod” of Jeannie (Kristen Bell), Clyde (Ben Schwartz) and Doug (Josh Lawson).  The coup was engineered by Greg Norbert (Greg Germann), a client made livid when Marty’s stripper date had hot sex with Greg’s wife in a restaurant bathroom stall, and was designed to result in Marty’s termination from the firm. 

After weeks of build-up, the final resolution of the merger plotline was unconvincing, turning on Jeannie publicly vowing a class action for sexual harassment against the firm because of her affair (and, it turned out, that every other young woman in the place) with “The Rainmaker,” Marcos Pelios (Griffin Dunne).  In real life, whatever happened to the merger, that would probably end Jeannie’s career, but in the world of House of Lies, it was a triumph both of Jeannie’s ballsiness and Marty’s manipulation.  The material isn’t funny enough on the one hand, or emotionally involving on the other.
That’s the trouble with Lies at this point.  It wants to be an outrageous satire about consultants who are essentially con men and the world they inhabit, but also wants us to care about Marty (and to a lesser extent, Jeannie) as characters.  The show treats the other lead characters as one-note jokes, Clyde the fast-talking slimeball and Doug the insecure preppy who can’t say two consecutive sentences without “Harvard” being in one of them.  Marty’s ex-wife and competitor Monica (Dawn Olivieri) is a gorgon with whom he frequently has sex, and it’s anyone’s guess what we’re supposed to make of Marty’s son Roscoe (Donis Leonard, Jr) and his uncertain sexuality.  
House of Lies can be enjoyable at times.  Cheadle is never less than compelling to watch, and although he has by far the best part, the supporting cast brings zing and charm to their dialogue.  Watching Marty and his team cynically rake consulting fees from their clients and scheme against their competitors is fun, up to a point.  The millieu feels like it could have supported a terrific dark comedy movie.  As a series, the show needs a consistent point of view and more depth than it currently provides.  Showtime has renewed the show for a 2d season, so we’ll find out soon enough whether those will be coming anytime soon.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."