House of Lies – Episode 1-3 Review – “Not Giving Up Yet”

House of Lies (Showtime)

I decided to wait a few weeks before reviewing House of Lies because I felt like I needed to get a sense of what the show was really like, and that didn’t happen in only one episode. Now that I’ve seen three episodes, I feel like I know what House of Lies is and wants to be and I’m just not sure whether I like it.

If House of Lies didn’t have the cast that it did, it’s unlikely that I’d be watching. Or I’d be watching with much less interest. But the series stars some people I really root for. I can’t say I’m a massive Don Cheadle fan, but he’s been in several movies I’ve liked and I certainly have nothing against the guy. The show also features Ben Schwartz, who is known for being hilarious on Parks and Recreation as Jean-Ralphio and adorable when singing with Zooey Deschanel. I love him.

I am also a huge Kristen Bell fan, and she’s the main reason I tuned in. I love Veronica Mars, I love Kristen Bell in interviews, I want her to be cast as Johanna in The Hunger Games and, on top of digging her appearances in Party Down and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I even enjoy her work in the sub-par rom-coms she’s had to make over the years. Hell, the combined appeal of Kristen Bell, John Krasinski and Rob Riggle might even be enough to convince me to go see this really stupid looking whale movie.

OK, so I just bombarded you with a million links, but you get my point: I wanted to like this show. And the thing is, I might like House of Lies. There are certainly elements of the show I find interesting. So let’s talk.

House of Lies is about a group of management consultants led by Cheadle’s character Marty Kaan. They travel the country trying to soak up as much money as they can from big corporations by making themselves seem vital to the business. In the age of Occupy Wall Street at the 1%, it’s an interesting focus for the show. Marty and his colleagues make good money, but you’re not supposed to hate them for it because they’re making it by swindling the 1%.

This scene from episode three? It was just dumb.

I like the edgy camaraderie among the four consultants, and when they’re ribbing each other the show it at its best. That kind of witty, snappy language needs to be more present in the show. My issue with House of Lies is that it often feels like it’s trying really, really hard to be as edgy as possible. There are sex scenes that feel meant to shock me, but mostly just make me roll my eyes at the unbelievability of it all.

Throughout the show, Marty stops what’s happening so he can explain something to the audience. It’s a gimmick that I think works a lot of the time, but I can see it turning some viewers off of the show.

Marty’s son is pretty damn cute.

We also get to see a lot of Marty’s home life. He lives with his father and young son. His son likes to cross-dress and is exploring gender dynamics in a way that would (and does, as we learn from some issues the kid has at school) make some people uncomfortable. Marty embraces this in a way that some viewers might think is meant to solely garner sympathy for the character, but I think is in line with the rest of his persona. Marty says and does what he wants, he takes shit from no one. Even, or especially, when that comes to his son. I believe that this character would yell at a school principal for not wanting his son to audition for the part of “Sandy” in the school’s production of Grease.

However, as the show has progressed we’re also supposed to be seeing Marty as reckless and damaged (his mother committed suicide) and I’m not sure if that will hold up. It is very possible to root for an anti-hero. I’ve been watching Dexter for years, and Marty certainly isn’t a serial killer. I just hope the show figures out how to make Marty charming enough – you can be a jerk, but you need to be damn clever about it if I’m going to like you. Otherwise, the show will just be about rich jerks taking money from richer, bigger jerks, and who wants to watch that?

So, have you guys been watching House of Lies? What are your thoughts so far?


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