January 17, 2012

THE SKED’S PILOT + 1 REVIEW: “House of Lies”

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Previously… On HOUSE OF LIES:  Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle) and his “pod” of associate management consultants (Kristen Bell, Ben Schwartz, Josh Lawson) travel the country, putting out fires for their high-powered clients while enjoying their lack of principles.  
Episode 2:  The second episode, written by series creator Matthew Carnahan, suggests that House of Lies won’t be putting much effort into continuing storylines.  The idea seems to be more of a procedural approach, with a crisis-of-the-week solved by the regular characters.  This week, the Pod went to Phoenix, where they brokered a deal between the local NBA owner and his estranged wife that was clearly inspired by the McCourts and Dodgers in LA.

The  “plot,” as such, was undeveloped and not particularly engaging, just another opportunity for Marty to prove he’s the smartest guy in the room.  What was more interesting was spending considerably more time with the other Pod members.  Doug (Lawson), despite his Harvard degree, proved himself a fumbler with the ladies, as evidenced by an extended cameo encounter with Cat Deeley as herself that ended embarrassingly for Doug.  Clyde (Schwartz) is the fast-talking, more aggressive hustler.  And Jeannie (Bell), also no winner romantically (in this episode, she thought an old college friend was pursuing her, when actually he was just a headhunter offering her a job), has an ambiguous relationship with Marty, who killed the new job offer and wanted her to know it, somewhat to her satisfaction.
Those are all decent threads to be picked up as the season progresses.  On the home front, it turned out Marty’s hate sex with his ex-wife/competitor (Dawn Olivieri) wasn’t a unique event, but something they seemingly do regularly.  And the storyline featuring Marty’s ambivalently gendered son (Donis Leonard, Jr) continues to feel like a refugee episode from Glee.
House of Lies, with its constantly scheming protagonists, is a good stylistic match with Showtime’s other Sunday shows Shameless and Californication.  Compared to them, it lacks emotional depth and, seemingly, much interest in having any.  It does have a sparkling cast, however–Ben Schwartz was particularly effective in this episode–and that, along with a certain verve, may keep it at least moderately entertaining.
ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…
PILOT + 1:  When do HBO’s new Sunday shows launch?


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."