January 13, 2013



HOUSE OF LIES:  Sunday 10PM on Showtime

Marty Kaan (accent on the “con”) and his management consulting crew are back for a second season at their HOUSE OF LIES tonight on Showtime, and apart from a purge of some of the recurring guest stars, everything is pretty much as remembered.  2 weeks have passed since Marty (Don Cheadle) was able to beat back an acquisition of the company that would have cost his team their jobs, thanks to the willingness of Jeannie (Kristen Bell) to have sex with one of the lead partners and confess it publicly at a firm banquet.  Now an interim CEO (Bess Armstrong) is in place, and Jeannie’s received a meaningless title promotion to avoid a sexual harassment lawsuit.

The season premiere, written by series creator Matthew Carnahan and directed by Executive Producer Stephen Hopkins, introduces three plotlines that will presumably drive the season.  One is a very gradual reconstruction of the drunken memories of Marty and Jeannie about just what happened after the banquet when the two of them went off together; the implication is that when they do recall everything they said and did, things will change between them.  Another is the introduction of a new client (Kevin Dobson), who is recalled by no one on the team, although all of them, including Harvard grad Doug (Josh Lawson) and street-smart Clyde (Ben Schwartz) frantically try to figure out who he is and what he needs even while they’re dancing around their conversations with him, an amusing exercise that goes (as House of Lies so often does) over the top, until it becomes silly that the client doesn’t realize he’s being played.  As it turns out, the subject of the job is a new casino, which will bring the show to Vegas.  Meanwhile, Marty has to face the fact that his gender-bending son Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr) has chosen to live with ex-wife Monica (Dawn Olivieri) instead of him, and now the possibility–however unlikely–that Monica has turned over a new and more respectable leaf.

The bread and butter of House of Lies is in the gleeful amorality of Marty and his team as they exploit the greed and stupidity of those around them, squeezing all for the maximum return while promising an expertise that barely exists.  Cheadle, Bell, Lawson and Schwartz have a great time with this material, and it’s fun to watch them.  There’s no emotional content to it at all, however, and not a lot of variety in the marks week to week, so it tends to get wearing.  Thus the show also tries to build in some kind of relationship drama among Marty and his team on the one side and his family on the other, but none of that material has really jelled to date, and it’ll be interesting to see if the Marty/Jeannie storyline changes that.

House of Lies was only a moderate success for Showtime in its first season, hovering in the 0.5 area in 18-49s, but it’s a “noisy” show in the sense of getting attention, plus the Don Cheadle business is a good business to be in, so it made sense for the network to give it another season.  If it doesn’t show signs of growth in Season 2, though, Showtime may be less inclined to keep it going.  So far, House has yet to find the right combination of cynicism, wit and character study that it seems to be aiming for.


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."