Showtime's "House of Lies" is an oversexed take on the One Percent

Is America ready to laugh with the one percent? With its newest offering House of Lies, Showtime thinks so.

House of Lies is a dramedy about a team of management consultants that counsel our corporate overlords. Their fearless leader is Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle), who is sly, brash, and like any Showtime protagonist, deeply damaged. He lives with his father (Glynn Turman, last seen as The Wire‘s Mayor Royce) and his precocious, gender-confused son Roscoe. Roscoe is equal parts Manny from Modern Family and Sam from The Riches, but should provide a different type of drama than the usual angst that TV kids provide.

Marty’s team consists of three young turks. Kristen Bell‘s Jeannie Van Der Hooven is a business psychologist who Marty wants to bed. Smooth talker Clyde Oberholt is played by Parks and Recreation‘s Ben Schwartz, who handles the role as if Jean-Ralphio went to Wharton. Rounding out the crew is Australian TV vet Josh Lawson as Doug Guggenheim, a Harvard grad who proves you can’t teach class.

Showtime has a reputation for using the loose standards of premium cable to program oversexed comedies and dramas, and House of Lies is no different, beginning with the first scene of the pilot. Marty awakens nude with a comatose woman who turns out to be his ex-wife Monica (Dawn Olivieri) – a pill popper and his professional nemesis. The story takes the gang to a strip club and includes a bit of sex in unusual places. Throughout the pilot, the question arises: is sex incidental to the plot or a driver of it? At least with Californication, it’s right there in the title; with House of Lies, it seems sensational.

Like the characters it presents, House of Lies is slick, using freeze frame to let Marty break the fourth wall and explain industry jargon and impart wisdom. In the pilot, at least, the plot is overtly topical: banker bonuses, bad mortgages, and the financial crisis. If it had been produced more recently, it no doubt would have included the Occupy movement. As management consultants, the characters will probably spend most of their time dealing with “masters of the fucking universe,” but the vagaries of their industry should allow for varied plots. While it’s not breaking new creative ground, House of Lies lets its stars shine. Watching Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell get “the guys who have the world by the balls by the balls” is reason enough to watch.

House of Lies airs Sundays at 10PM on Showtime.

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