December 25, 2011 at 10:44 am #235515
pilot is already out there online, so I might as well create the
thread now. This will be one of the centerpieces of Showtime’s free
weekend on 1/6-8.
1.1: Gods of Dangerous Financial Instruments (Pilot)
by Matthew Carnahan; directed by Stephen Hopkins
Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle), head of Galweather and Stearn, a management
consultant firm, who’s gifted at identifying and exploiting the
weaknesses of clients to get them to sign on the dotted line. His
team, a/k/a ‘Pod’ consists of Jeannie van der Hooven (Kristen Bell),
Clyde Oberholt (Ben Schwartz) and Doug Guggenheim (Josh Lawson).
go to New York to consult for Metro Capital, a bank looking for a
plan to unscrupulously justify their year-end bonuses as the
financial world implodes around them. Also, Marty receives unwanted
parenting advice from his live-in father when his son auditions for
the female lead in his school’s musical production of
‘Grease’.December 25, 2011 at 11:02 am #235517
I watched the Pilot online…and this needs to step it up.December 26, 2011 at 12:07 am #235518
Awful. It’s trying too hard to be cool. The talking down to the camera thing got annoying quick. Not going to watch episode 2.January 2, 2012 at 12:06 pm #235519
Chicago Sun-Times with the first in-depth review of the pilot;
Like a lot of Americans in today’s
big business-bashing world, I often wonder what it is those fancy
management consultants do to earn their fat paychecks. The new series “House of Lies”
attempts to answer that elusive question in a darkly humorous,
If there’s even 10 percent of truth
to Showtime’s latest comedy — based on Martin Kihn’s tell-all
book House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and
Then Tell You the Time — then the answer is worse than this cynical
journalist ever imagined.
The show’s Ivy League grad
guns-for-hire have a virtual monopoly on bad behavior, both in the
boardroom and the bedroom. Every week, the smooth-talking shysters at
Galweather-Stearn parachute into a new city, trick some deep-pocketed
company into believing they need them and then live out a rap music
video with a case of Patron and some high-priced lapdances —
all on said company’s expense account, of course.
“Infect the host and bleed them dry,”
explains Don Cheadle’s character, Marty Kaan, who lives up to his
con man name. Kaan is one of the top dogs in the
management consulting biz, which is to say he’s fluent in
meaningless jargon, has a master’s degree in lying and sports a
blackbelt in BS. He also makes the guys from “Entourage” look
That thick portfolio of vices applies
equally to the rest of Kaan’s “pod,” or partners in
white-collar crime: Jeannie, the power-hungry, requisite blonde
played by Kristen Bell (“Heroes,” “Veronica Mars”); frat boy
Clyde (Ben Schwartz) and dorky Doug (Josh Lawson), who wastes no
opportunity to remind you he went to Harvard.
What the pod lacks in scruples it more
than makes up for in chemistry. Cheadle, however, is the one to
watch. This seasoned film star could read Procter & Gamble’s
annual report and make it sound interesting. As big baller Marty
Kaan, he’s downright transfixing.
In “House of Lies,” Kaan’s
rollercoaster work life is just as messed up as his personal one. For
the three or four hours a week he’s at home, Kaan shares his L.A.
high-rise with his disapproving father (Glynn Turman) and a
cross-dressing pre-teen son (Donis Leonard Jr.), easily the most
well-adjusted character in the entire cast. His ex-wife (Dawn
Olivieri; “Heroes,” “True Blood”) is a narcissistic
rhymes-with-snitch who might be the only consultant on the West Coast
better than Kaan.
The pilot episode hints at some of
Kaan’s personal demons. It also serves as a Consulting 101 class,
with several — and sometimes annoying — talk-into-the-camera
scenes to explain lingo like “counseled out” (fired) and
“afterwork” (additional billable hours).
The episode has a storyline about
Kaan’s son wanting to play Sandy in the school production of
“Grease,” as well as a toe-curling
business-dinner-gone-horribly-awry scene at a swanky restaurant. And
we watch the pod jet to New York (first class, natch) to hatch a plan
for a big bank’s top brass to justify their obese bonuses. Sound like a lot to pack into a
half-hour show? It is. That’s probably why the pilot is my least
favorite of the five episodes I watched.
(You can catch the “House of Lies”
premiere now for free online at Showtime’s website and on YouTube
or see it on demand before its Jan. 8 debut. The premium cable
channel also is running a free preview weekend Jan. 6-8, so folks can
watch the pilot even if they’re not Showtime subscribers.)
“House of Lies” is a
no-holds-barred, over-the-top program that takes some time to get
used to, especially when it comes to sex. Some of this stuff would
make Michelle “Bombshell” McGee blush.
The show is populated by characters who
aren’t easy to like. But, eventually, they become even harder to
resist. (Guest stars include some real gems, such as “Ally
McBeal’s” Greg Germann as Kaan’s nemesis and “The West
Wing’s” Richard Schiff as the enigmatic boss at
As for how realistic it is, “well, I
don’t think you’d necessarily want the story of a 13-month SAP
implementation,” said creator, writer and executive producer
Matthew Carnahan in press materials.
“I think the spirit is there,”
Carnahan added. “I don’t know if the usual management consultant
has quite as much sex, but I don’t know if anyone has quite as much
as these characters.”
Here’s what else we don’t know:
Exactly what a management consultant does. And that’s the way they
like it. As Kaan points out at the start of
episode three, if you still don’t know what it is we do, “then I
guess we’re doing it well.”January 2, 2012 at 3:32 pm #235520
That last line of the review, that Don Cheadle says on episode 3, sounds like a writer’s way to make up for their incompetence in developing that world well.January 2, 2012 at 10:46 pm #235521
This was not good. Unbearably uncool but thinks it is which is the worst.January 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm #235522
Another great review from the San Francisco Chronicle:
‘House of Lies’ TV review: Cynicism made hilarious
Looking for a TV show that will make you feel really good about yourself? Try “House of Lies,” a new comedy premiering Sunday on Showtime.
Created by Matthew Carnahan, based on Martin Kihn’s book “House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time,” the series is so pervasively cynical – and, by the way, brilliantly funny – it has the potential of making any viewer feel his or her life isn’t so bad after all.
Don Cheadle stars as Marty Kaan – pronounced “con” – a brilliant management consultant for the firm of Galweather-Stern, which is ranked second in the consultant biz to a firm that happens to employ his equally ruthless, pill-popping ex-wife, Monica (Dawn Olivieri).
These two are so cynical, in fact, they regularly have angry sex. It’s difficult to imagine they ever felt real affection for each other. At the start of the show’s first episode, Marty has to get the unconscious Monica dressed and posed with a laptop before their preteen son, Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.), wanders into the bedroom in his fetching skirt and leggings to see if Dad wants French toast for breakfast.
To Monica, the kid is a “tranny in training,” who still loves her “even if I forget to love him.” To his dad, though, Roscoe is exploring gender issues, and if that means trying out for the Olivia Newton-John role in the school production of “Grease,” no one, including the school, is going to stop him.
Marty’s team includes the slick player Clyde (Ben Schwartz), the nerdy number cruncher Doug (Josh Lawson) and Jeannie (Kristen Bell), whose deceptive sorority-girl good looks hide keen negotiating skills. Watching this unholy quartet persuade major companies to hire them is like watching a “Mission: Impossible”-like thriller. Adhering to their motto “screw or be screwed,” the team schemes, thrusts and parries. Every strategy is precisely devised to take advantage of a client’s weak points, and there’s no room for the least bit of sentiment.
If you’re wondering why you’d like any of these people, well, in real life, you probably wouldn’t. On the other hand, in real life, you probably wouldn’t have cozied up to a cold-blooded mob kingpin living in the New Jersey suburbs with his wife and kids either.
We often like villains: They can make fascinating and compelling characters, especially when they are created with the care Carnahan has put into Marty Kaan. Beyond that, though, like Tony Soprano, there is a likable side to Marty, and it’s not just the manipulative charm that oozes through his profanity-laced conversation. Part of the appeal is that the role is played by Cheadle, the screen’s ultimate nice guy. But Marty Kaan’s character isn’t completely unredeemable. He genuinely loves his kid, for one thing, and though he may have the morals of a rutting boar, he seems to feel something akin to affection for his team.
Just as Tony Soprano was likable because he was offing other bad guys, Marty and his team are taking advantage of the unbridled hubris of big business. In the first episode, for example, they get themselves hired by a huge mortgage lending company. How they do it is masterful and won’t be revealed here, but knowing that Marty’s team has gotten the better of the firm is satisfying. That he’s able to do it by using the company’s own greed against it makes the victory even more delicious.
In the show’s second episode, no doubt taking a cue from the bitter divorce proceedings of Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie, Marty’s team is hired to broker a settlement between the divorcing owners of a basketball team. In the fictionalized version, the results differ from the settlement reached by the McCourts in real life.
That’s understandable, though, because the McCourts were at a distinct disadvantage: They didn’t have Marty Kaan to negotiate a settlement.January 3, 2012 at 8:01 pm #235523
Variety follows with its .02:
The Showtime series “House of Lies” – based on a memoir by the same name – understandably drops the subtitle “How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time.” That’s perhaps in part because, beyond being unwieldy, the business-insider aspect has been downplayed, the better to emphasize the program’s tawdrier elements. This makes the series guilty fun – thanks primarily to star Don Cheadle as a fast-talking, ruthless consultant – if not especially enlightening about the industry the book laid bare. Indeed, in keeping with what Showtime classifies as comedies, “Lies” has a different kind of “laying” and “bare” in mind.
Although the resulting half-hour (a little longer than that for the premiere) isn’t as smart as it might have been — falling well short of the movie “Up in the Air,” to which it bears a thematic resemblance — the program is moderately entertaining and very much in keeping with the tone of “Californication,” which also counts director Stephen Hopkins among its producers.
Cheadle (doubling as an exec producer) plays Martin Kaan, who announces at the outset that he earns a cool seven-figure salary to, as he explains it, “use indecipherable jargon” and “talk people into thinking they really, really need us.” One of the devices the show employs — presumably to convey some of the book’s revelations, as well as to translate the business-ese — involves freezing the action, while Martin discusses terms or tactics that are tools of his trade.
Martin spends most of his time with three younger colleagues, played by Ben Schwartz and Josh Lawson, a duo essentially providing the management-consultant equivalent of “Beavis and Butt-head”-style comic relief; and Kristen Bell, who endeavors to prove at every turn she’s one of the boys.
Adapted by writer Matthew Carnahan (“Dirt”), the series is unpretentious regarding its aims, even with a larger serialized storyline involving a major merger as its narrative backbone. At times, all that feels like window dressing to get to the oh-no-they-didn’t moments, like Martin bringing a stripper masquerading as his wife to a business dinner (in perhaps the premiere’s funniest sequence).
Other elements prove uneven. Casting of smaller roles is strong, with Richard Schiff as Martin’s boss and Greg Germann as a potential client. By contrast, there’s a tiresome subplot involving Martin’s flamboyant young son — who wants to play Sandy in a school production of “Grease” — creating a gay-youth riff that feels mimeographed from other Showtime’s half-hours. Ditto for Martin’s ball-busting ex-wife (Dawn Olivieri), while Glynn Turman is under-used as his dad.
By appearing more preoccupied with underpants than pocketbooks, the series meshes neatly with the aforementioned “Californication” and “Shameless.” And since Showtime already has its trophy shows, “House of Lies” can afford to be less about accolades than amusement — more lowbrow than high finance, with Cheadle as a first-rate maestro of bullshit.
If that’s not quite a Triple-A rating, at least that mild appraisal of its assets is no lie.January 3, 2012 at 8:31 pm #235524
These good reviews show how biased reviewers can be when you throw a charming actor, and some casual sex on a show. Either that, or the following episodes improve tremendously from the pilot.
I’m not to think I always have to be right, but that pilot was so awful, I have a hard time believing anyone could find anything good in it.January 4, 2012 at 1:12 pm #235525
This trashpile somehow scores a 76 on metacritic:January 5, 2012 at 5:24 pm #235526
That pilot reminded me of an average Entourage episode: a straight man’s fantasy that thinks it’s so much more hip than it is. You can’t give off an air of arrogance without some wit and/or insight. This show has neither. I’ll give it two more episodes. Don Cheadle is fairly charming. Don’t see why Bell would take this role. It’s a poorly written supporting role. Is her career that far in the dumps?January 5, 2012 at 7:47 pm #235527
USA Today…3.5 out of 4 stars. Just sayin’
Marty Kaan, the main character in
Showtime’s House of Lies (* * * ½ out of four, Sunday, 10 ET/PT) is
what corporate America deserves – and an eager-to-be-entertained
Part con man, part stock-option savior,
Marty traverses the country convincing wayward executives that he and
his team of big-money management consultants are the life-saving
solution to a problem they didn’t know they had. Marty is as cynical
as they come, and the money he snookers out of CEO dimwits is more
likely to come out of their employee’s wages than their own fat
But if he’s not Robin Hood, he’s not an
enemy of laid-off and furloughed workers, either – and his pleasure
in tweaking the egos of the 1% mirrors our own. Plus, as mesmerizingly played by Don
Cheadle, one of our best actors, he’s also the most original,
enjoyable, complex sitcom character to arrive this season. To make
matters even better, he shares the screen with Veronica Mars’ lovely,
talented Kristen Bell, as Marty’s protégé Jeannie.
All told, that rather easily makes
House of Lies the year’s best new comedy, albeit one that is so
outrageous and explicit, you may sometimes feel the comedy is lost in
the show’s cable-driven desire to shock and overwhelm. Yet despite
its thematic and stylistic excesses, there is something about the
bitterness of Lies’ approach and the desperate energy of Cheadle’s
performance that speaks to the times.
Each half-hour is a tightrope act for
Marty: Will he get what he wants from his clients before his ego and
temper get the better of him? And watching him negotiate it is
fascinating. Marty may not be exactly admirable, except compared
with the people he’s fleecing, but he does have a natural, swaggering
charm that comes through in his relationship with his team, a quartet
rounded out by Ben Schwartz and Josh Lawson.
There is much to admire here, from the
snap in the dialogue to the show’s willingness to tackle issues of
race in the workplace – but there might be even more if creator
Matthew Carnahan (Dirt) could learn when to stop pushing. He takes
Marty too far, relying on Cheadle’s skill and presence to keep us
attached to the character despite Marty’s behavior and the show’s
mannered approach. The trick works for now, but it’s a bad strategy
for the long run.
Unless he and Showtime are interested
only in short-term profits. It’s not the best idea, but it’s one
Marty’s CEO clients would understand.
————————————————————————————————————————January 5, 2012 at 7:55 pm #235528
That pilot reminded me of an average Entourage episode: a straight man’s fantasy that thinks it’s so much more hip than it is. You can’t give off an air of arrogance without some wit and/or insight. This show has neither. I’ll give it two more episodes. Don Cheadle is fairly charming. Don’t see why Bell would take that role. Is her career that in the dumps?
Well, let’s review her 2012 projects as of now
1) Safety Not Guaranteed, a competition selection for the Sundance Film Festival;
2) Big Miracle, with John Kazinski and Drew Barrymore toplining;
3) Movie 43, the Farrelley Brothers collection of short films
4) Unsupervised, the new FX animated comedy debuting in a couple weeks
5) Outrun, with Bradley Cooper, Dax Shepard and Kristin Chenoweth;
6) Dance of the Mirlitons, with Chloe Moretz.
Doing just fine, it seems 🙂January 5, 2012 at 8:12 pm #235529
Dude, are you seriously supporting this shit show because of her? If you truly like her, you want her out of this show as soon as possible. If this succeeds, she’ll be stuck in a bad series for who knows how long.
For exemple, I like Connie Britton, but never, in a million years would I want to see her stuck in “American Horror Story”. This show might do well at first, but I really don’t see how it can benefit Cheadle and bell’s career long term besides keeping them employed. Seriously, it’s terrible.January 5, 2012 at 8:30 pm #235530
No high profile, young actress is going to take a supporting role on a Showtime series. Once more, it doesn’t say good things about where she stands in the industry.
I wouldn’t say the pilot was terrible. The first act was terrible. The second act was mediocre. The third act was passable. The third act, Cheadle and Bell will keep me watching for a few weeks, and you never want write off a series based on its pilot, especially a “comedy”.
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