3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: House of Lies: Season 1 (DVD)
I really wanted to hate this series. Honestly I did. Within seconds of the shows credits hitting the screen there it was, the first of many nude scenes. I've always felt that the inclusion of extreme nudity or language was the first sign of a poorly made show/special trying to aim for the lowest common denominator right out of the chute. There are even web sites dedicated to counting the seconds it takes for a made for cable series/special to include a nude scene. For once my theory was wrong. While I wanted to not like this series I found myself compelled to continue watching episode after episode and wondering what happened when season one ended.
HOUSE OF LIES is about Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle), a fast talking, fast thinking management consultant and his team. What do management consultants do? Watch and see as periodically everything on screen freezes with the exception of Marty who then talks to you, the viewer, to explain something going on. What a management consultant does is one of those times. Basically it boils down to telling the client what they want to hear, stroking their egos, taking what they want and filtering it through the company and then giving it right back to them while charging them for doing nothing more than telling them what they wanted to hear from the start. In essence they do little but get paid tremendous salaries for doing so.
Marty's team is a well oiled machine with each person knowing their job and doing it well. Second in command and possibly being groomed to take Marty's place one day is Jeanne Van Der Hooven (Kristin Bell), a smart young woman who knows how to put everything together to present to the client. She still has some rough edges yet and as the show begins is one of the few people with a tad left of her scruples but that could change at any time. Next is Clyde Oberholt (Ben Schwartz), a smooth talker who can put together a power point package like no one else. Last in line is Doug Guggenheim (Josh Lawson) the team geek. Lawson can gather information faster than anyone and assemble it in whatever form you need, making good numbers look bad and bad look good.
Marty and his team fly out from their main office throughout the week to meet with clients trying to find new ways to improve their companies, to filter through ideas they have to see if they might work and to bill those clients as much and as often as possible. At the same time there is competition from other management consultants, the worst of which is ranked above the company Marty works for and whose top consultant is Marty's ex-wife Monica Talbot (Dawn Olivieri). That would be bad enough but Monica also happens to be a tad insane and a cut throat competitor. To make it even more complicated, Monica and Marty occasionally still find themselves in bed together from the series opening sequence through several episodes.
If that wasn't enough story to hold your interest then put into play one more thing that is slowly making Marty insane, his home life. There you'll find Marty's son Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.), a cross dressing junior high student who's in the midst of discovering himself. Helping Marty raise his son is Marty's father and ex-psychiatrist Jeremiah (Glynn Turman), a man who doesn't hold back what's on his mind but who loves his son deeply.
Each episode finds the team trying to take on the problems of a different company and each challenge has them finding new ways to deal with the problems that come up in doing so. Some involve things as simple as the competitor arriving at the same time to dealing with a racist CEO who won't give Marty the time of day. A thread that runs through the whole season revolves around the CFO of a company that Marty and his team take on in the first episode and who he accidentally embarrasses when his wife has sex with Marty's date in the ladies room. The same character in trying to exact revenge convinces his bosses that buying out the company Marty works for would be to their advantage. The prospect of losing his job and his team's as well becomes one of the central focus points of nearly each episode.
There you have it, a rather lengthy description of what the basics of the show involve. So what makes it worth watching? Narrowing that down to one thing is impossible and to break it down to two is difficult but I'll try. First and foremost is the writing. This show has some of the most crisp dialogue I've ever seen. Not a word is wasted and the back and forth patter between characters as well as the revealing dialogues are amazing to listen to. Sure there are plenty of expletives uttered but between them coming out fast and furious and the amount of sexual activity on screen it becomes little more than background noise. The words used here are formed so well that it almost comes off like a song instead of just talking. There is a flow and pacing that makes each sentence something to listen to.
The second thing that stands out here is the acting. Cheadle has always been a favorite of mine doing some great work in the past. He shines here as Marty displaying not just the smooth talking conman of a consultant but offering up the unhappy and slowly unhinging person beneath that false face. The title of the show doesn't just sum up what their business is all about, it's a reference to the home life that Marty has, the place where he hopes he can be the best father and son possible but where he inevitably fails. Is there a possibility that Marty can turn his life around and be what he wants at home and still be successful at work? That's the main question posed from episode one to the last.
The supporting actors are just as amazing. Each one has their own quirks that they bring to the story and to the team. Best of all is Bell who shows that while her character may be one of the few with a conscious she's also falling into the same cesspool that her fellow co-workers seem to excel in. While she has the skills to possibly be the next Marty Kaan, does she really want to become that?
If you are easily offended then this series is not at all something you should watch. The scenes of sexually active characters starts seconds in the opening show and filters through each episode, some graphic and others not quite so. The language is always filled with expletives and the F bomb is dropped more than any ammo used in all world wars combined. If you can get past that though you'll find a series that is incredibly well written, acting that is the top of the heap and so interesting that you'll find yourself skipping the credits and cueing up the next episode as the one you're watching ends. The only problem here is waiting till season two comes out to see what happens next.