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Monday, January 9, 2012

House of Lies - "Pilot"

     In Showtime's House of Lies "Pilot," Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda, Picket Fences) leads his team of consultants to New York City to retain a big client. However, upon arriving he realizes that the bank they work for has asked another consulting firm to pitch as well, and this one happens to be number one, while Marty's is number two. And Marty's ex-wife, Monica (Dawn Olivieri, The Vampire Diaries, Heroes), whom he recently had angry sex with, works for the competition. Marty almost screws things up when he takes a stripper (Megalyn Echikunwoke, Supernatural) to a business dinner with the client, Greg (Greg Germann, Ally McBeal), the stripper has sex with Greg's wife (Anna Camp, True Blood, The Good Wife) in the bathroom, and Marty gives Greg a black eye. But then he comes up with an ingenious pitch, and things work out... for now.

     It's hard to know what to make of House of Lies. Apparently viewers are expected to root for a consulting firm which, by their own admission, cares only about getting as much money as they can from the client. These trends are reinforced by Marty's confessions to the camera, which while done with really cool camera shots, do not make Marty likable. Then again, neither does anything Marty says or does. He's a pathetic, despicable individual who is not at all worthy of any affection. Yet, for some reason, there's an attraction towards him.

     The one thing Marty appears to care about is his son, Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.), who likes to cross dress, and who tries out for the part of Sandy in his school's production of Grease. But even that is cast in doubt when Marty stops fighting for Roscoe due to the fact that Roscoe's rival's mother (Daphne Duplaix, Passions, One Life to Live) is hot. In fact, Marty and said mother slip out of the production to have sex in a vehicle. So there's that.

     Of course, there is someone that cares for Marty. Marty's dad, Jeremiah (Glynn Turman, The Wire) criticizes Marty's parenting, but does stick around and help out with Roscoe. If Jeremiah, who seems like a pretty decent individual, can like Marty, then perhaps we can do. But what has damaged Marty so badly, and what exactly is he seeking to fill his void?

     Marty is the latest in a long line of flawed Showtime characters who audiences flock to when they should be fleeing. The difference here is, unlike the stars of Nurse Jackie and Weeds, Marty is a boy. And like other similar Showtime shows, it does seem fresh, and different from its peers. So while it's hard to see exactly where House of Lies may be going, there is something about it that makes one want to watch.

    The biggest shame in the "Pilot" is there is scant little to do for Marty's team, who are excellent actors, all around. There's Jeannie (Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), whom Marty is convinced will eventually sleep with him, and whose secret he is always digging for. Doug (Josh Lawson, Chandon Pictures) is good with numbers, but not with manners. Clyde (Ben Schwartz, Parks and Recreation, The Other Guys) is just plain fun. Each of these three are interesting, and should have a larger role. Perhaps they will, now that Marty and the main story has been introduced. It's hard to imagine Bell, in particular, would have taken the role if it is destined to remain the bit part it is in the "Pilot."

     Watch House of Lies Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.

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