DVD Review: House of Lies (The First Season)



Don Cheadle (Boogie Nights) has been a reliable badass in cinema for over a decade. He’s perfected a smile that says, “I’m gonna talk smack, but I got the skills to back it up.” His time as the spokesperson for the NFL is legendary. But he never quite had a character that took full advantage of this skill until he got a series on Showtime. Martin Kihn’s House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time is a title that screamed for Cheadle to embrace. He glides into the slick suits of Marty Kaan, the fictional version of Kihn. His job is to have major companies hire his consulting firm to fix problems they didn’t know exist. I’ve seen these people in action and they make the tailors in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” look well meaning.

Kaan doesn’t work alone as he cons companies into buying his worthless services. He’s got a pod that makes things look really scientific and effective. Doug Guggenheim (Josh Lawson) and Clyde Oberholt (Ben Schwartz) are his twin nerds who enjoy the game. Jeannie van der Hooven (Veronica Mars‘ Kristen Bell) is his protege. She does her best to keep up with the big sharks in the industry. What makes the show click is how Marty will pause the action to breakdown the room. He’ll explain his gameplan, hit play and attack. House of Lies: The First Season provides an introduction to the dark arts of an MBA program.

“Gods of Dangerous Financial Instruments” puts Marty on the hot seat with MetroCapital since they want an excuse to give themselves massive bonuses during a crappy year. Mart doesn’t please everyone there which turns into a running battle during the 12 episodes. Marty also has issues at home when his kid wants to cross dress and Marty’s dad doesn’t agree with it. The son wants the female lead in a play. Adam Sandler made $20 million plus in Jack & Jill so why block a path to prosperity? “Amsterdam” gets the pod involved with a sports team and a messy divorce. “Microphallus” gets messy when MetroCapital lets it be known that they want Marty’s company. He doesn’t want a new set of bosses. “Mini-Mogul” is a confusing take your child to work special. Marty’s brings the kid along to see San Francisco. Jeannie gets engaged, but can’t stop her libido. “Utah” takes Marty into alien territory. He has to rely on Clyde since the business owner doesn’t like a black guy giving him advice.

“Our Descent Into Los Angeles” gets the son in trouble when he’s accused of trying to kiss a boy at school. At the same time, Marty’s relationship with a stripper gets serious while Jeannie wants to back out of her engagement. “Bareback Town” turns things around when Jeannie has to “impress” a female client. Can she go both ways for the sake of the team? “Veritas” lets Marty give advice to a Harvard Business school grad about the business. “Ouroboros” has the takeover getting too real as Marty gets grilled about how the company is doing. “Prologue and Aftermath” takes the pod to church. Can they really bring in more cash underneath the steeple? Or will they all be struck by lightening? “Business” and “The Mayan Apocalypse” focus on Marty doing his best to kill the takeover. He knows he and others will be axed upon the ink drying. The season finale is the most gruesome of the episodes as Marty stops time and demonstrates the office carnage at a human level. Almost makes you feel bad for these sharks that might become extinct.

House of Lies: The First Season is a great start to a show about people you learn to hate in the corporate world. Do these people really have the secret to instantly turn around the company? Marty makes no bones about how most of the time he merely gives people commonsense advice mixed with plenty of MBA corn syrup words. He doesn’t have the secrets to the universe or else his home life would be more stable. Cheadle and Bell are an amazing team as they scam and BS their way to major contracts. House of Lies has enough truth to make you devour all 12 episodes in a marathon session.

The Episodes
“Gods of Dangerous Financial Instruments,” “Amsterdam,” “Microphallus,” “Mini-Mogul,” “Utah,” “Our Descent Into Los Angeles,” “Bareback Town,” “Veritas,” “Ouroboros,” “Prologue and Aftermath,” “Business” and “The Mayan Apocalypse.”

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfers allow Cheadle to appear as slick as Marty when he enters a boardroom. The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. All of Marty’s wisdom is imparted clearly. It kicks and turns and curls up in your belly, makes you wanna freaky-deaky. There’s a Spanish dub. The episodes are subtitled.

Audio Commentaries are featured on “Gods of Dangerous Financial Instruments” and “The Mayan Apocalypse.” Amongst the chatters are Cheadle, Lawson, Schwarts, writer Matthew Carnahan and Executive producer Jessika Borsiczky. It’s a lively interaction which delves into what fueled the first season.

Interviews are short pieces that aired on Showtime as promo. Included is “Hanging with Don Cheadle,” “Hanging with Kristen Bell,” “Marty Kaan Profile” and “The Rainmaker.”

Biographies are text summaries of the stars.

Photo (1:10) montage of stills from the set.

E-Bridge Technology
lets you watch 2 episodes of Dexter and The Borgias.

House of Lies: The First Season is as sleek and sexy as promised with the casting of Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell. The best part about the show is that it will prepare you for when the management consultants drop by your office.

CBS DVD presents House of Lies: The First Season. Starring: Don Cheadle, Ben Schwartz, Josh Lawson and Kristen Bell. Boxset Contents: 12 episodes on 2 DVDs. Released: December 18, 2012. Available at Amazon.com

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