Have you ever really wanted to like something so much but just didn’t? That’s how I feel about the new Showtime comedy House of Lies. It has an outstanding cast of proven actors that includes Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, among others) and Ben Schwartz (Jean Ralphio on Parks and Recreation). Best of all it has Oscar nominee, Golden Globe winner and all around fantastic actor Don Cheadle. This show should be something great, but instead something is lacking.
Don Cheadle plays Marty Khan, the head of a team of management consultants that is made up of Bell, Schwartz and Josh Logan. They are heading to New York, charged with snaring a large bank for their firm. The show does a good job explaining what exactly management consultants do, with Cheadle boiling it down to it being “like dissing a really pretty girl so that she’ll want you more.” Occasionally Cheadle even stops the action in the scene to further explain terms like “cancelled out” (being fired) or showing with large cards on how the initial schmooze of a new client takes place. In the end, after a series of setbacks that include a disastrous dinner where a stripper poses as his wife, Marty is able to land the deal with an unorthodox Don Draper-ish presentation. This is much like everyone pretty much assumed he would.
The show is certainly a great showcase for Don Cheadle, who injects the show with an almost limitless supply of energy. It is a little disappointing to see the rest of the cast with basically nothing to do. Hopefully future episodes will correct this issue. Also a bit more time spent on Marty’s home life with his cross dressing 10 year old son Roscoe, played by Donis Leonard Jr and his former therapist father, Jeremiah played by Glynn Turman, could be just as entertaining. A more interesting story in the pilot involves Roscoe trying out for the role “Sandy” in his school’s production of Grease, and Marty negotiating his son getting the role of “Rizzo” so that he can sleep with a rival child’s mother. Also the odd love-hate relationship between Marty and Roscoe’s mother/business rival is intriguing.
House of Lies has all the ingredients of a great show, but it never seems to gel. The show has a distinct style and its characters are interesting. Best of all, it has Cheadle who is excellent in every scene. But no matter how bad he and his crew mess up, you know they’ll land the big account, so story-wise the show doesn’t hold any surprises. Perhaps future episodes will fix this and hopefully give the excellent cast around Cheadle more to do. It’s a show to check back with after a few episodes, or once the entire season is on DVD. Until then, in spite of Don Cheadle, House of Lies is “cancelled out.”
- Jason B. Williams