Winter TV First Impression: House of Lies

The broadcast and major cable networks have nearly two dozen brand-new shows (hopefully) heating up primetime this winter. To help you sort through it all, TVLine, as we did in the fall, is presenting a few First Impressions. Next on our list is.…

THE SHOW | Showtime’s House of Lies (premieres Sunday, Jan. 8 at 10/9c)

THE COMPETITION | CBS’ CSI: Miami, ABC’s Pan Am (finale airs early February)/GCB (premiering March 4), AMC’s Hell on Wheels (finales Jan. 15)/The Talking Dead (returns Feb. 12), HBO’s Angry Boys

THE CAST | Don Cheadle (Ocean’s Eleven), Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation), Dawn Olivieri (Heroes), Josh Lawson and others

Hot for Winter: TVLine Presents Your January Premieres Calendar

THE SET-UP | Cheadle is Marty Kaan, an elite management consultant for the No. 2 firm in the country. Bell, Schwartz and Lawson round out Marty’s team as Jeannie, Clyde and Doug, and Olivieri is Marty’s hard-partying, sex-crazed ex-wife (and professional rival). The weekly template finds Marty’s team “parachuting in” to help out an existing client or woo a prospective get, though the show is more about their banter (and bawdy antics) than the business. Along the way, Marty schools us on his tactics (or shares his woes) by “freezing” the action, Zack Morris-style, and talking to the camera.

Winter TV First Impression: Does NBC’s Smash Hit All the Right Notes?

THE PROS | This is a generally “fun” show hung on an almost incidental workplace premise. Cheadle is likeable and believable as both a ridiculously successful ladies man and savvy businessman, while Bell and Schwartz stand out as his reports. (Bell’s first best showcase perhaps comes in Episode 3, when The Big Bang Theory‘s ‘Kripke’ [SPOILER]s her [SPOILER].) The guest casting is solid, including Richard Schiff (The West Wing) as Marty’s boss, Greg Germann (Ally McBeal) and TV’s increasingly omnipresent Anna Camp (True Blood).

THE CONS | The “freeze-the-action” gimmick is perhaps overused, to a point that it takes you out of the story and hurts momentum. The Showtime-style outrageousness sometimes feels like it’s done simply for outrageousness’ sake. (For example, alpha male Marty has a cross-dressing pre-teen son — oh, the irony!) This is not a course in management consulting; in fact, I imagine the show is grossly oversimplifying the business to the degree that Melrose Place famously dumbed down ad agencies.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | House of Lies, with its ample nudity, sex and salty language, will be sufficiently “noisy” and draw some lookee-loos — especially during this, Showtime’s “Free Preview” weekend (though the full [if sanitized] episode can already be viewed here). In a time slot that is currently soft and is about to go through transitions (on ABC and AMC), it should perform just fine.

Watch a video preview for House of Lies, then vote in our poll below.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Molly says:

    hahahahhaha, ‘The Talking Dead’

  2. Kasper says:

    Really could go either way.

  3. disappointed says:

    Cheadle’s character has sex twice; two lesbians have sex; and the gang goes to a strip club…all in 30 minutes. Felt like I was watching skinemax instead of a new comedy. I was expecting clever writing and funny dialog instead, so I was disappointed. Came across like Cheadle just wanted a break from movies to drop trou.

  4. rod says:

    i really love “The Talking Dead”, they always have a lot to say

  5. Whimsical says:

    Anything with Kristen Bell in it is a must watch. Especially in lingerie.

  6. fernando says:

    I just went to your website, where I can watch the full ep. Woah I was so impress, i thought i was not going to like the show, i love it. It was great and Don and Kirsten rocked it. I advise everyone to watch.

  7. Elle says:

    As much as I love Kristen Bell i’ll just watch her movies cause this looks just not my kind of show I will try it because of her but I can’t see myself watching it every week.

    • Justin says:

      What movies would those be? We’re not talking about Jessica Chastain here.

      • Captain says:

        According to IMDb she currently has 6 movies in production so your comment really doesn’t make sense.

        • Juliet says:

          Don’t bother her movies are awful, watch Don Cheadle movies instead, he is the movie star, Bell was Veronica Mars, that is all.
          p.s: i flove VM but get real it is the only good thing Bell did.

  8. Justin says:

    I find it interesting that both reviews I’ve read of House of Lies are criticizing the storyline of the gay crossdressing teenage son. Believe it or not, gay kids exists. It’s really not that ironic. I actually think the storyline with the son is the best thing the show has going for it right now. I wasn’t expecting gender identity issues or a gay kid on House of Lies, but for me it was refreshing to see something like this. The show has two major problems, 1. is the complete lack of development of the supporting cast. They don’t do anything. They have few lines and they just aren’t funny. When you have Kristen Bell and John Ralfio from Parks and Rec on a TV show together, they should be used. The potential is massive. The second glaring annoyance is the way Cheadle talks to the camera. SATC dropped this schtick after season 1. Hopefully House of Lies will drop it much sooner.

    • Justin says:

      Also, I’m not very impressed with your obvious semi homophobic remark of referring to a gay crossdressing son as something outrageous. Call me super liberal, but it’s really not that outrageous. Any show with a black alpha male father embracing his gay son is actually quite groundbreaking.

      • Captain says:

        I wouldn’t say that was a homphobic remark, he was simply saying that it wasn’t neccessary to the show. I agree with you though that it’s probably the best part of the show and the thing that made me like Marty the most since he’s a pretty messed-up guy. It’s really nice to see an alpha male guy like that be so accepting and encouraging of his son even though he’s clearly uncomfortable with it. I love that scene where he’s demanding his son play Sandy in the school play of Grease. THAT’S a good father folks.

      • Eli says:

        I have to say I’m not very impressed with your obvious semi racist remark of referring to a black man hugging his son as something quite groundbreaking.

        Surely in this day and age a black man (or any man) hugging his son is an accepted phenomenon?

        • Justin says:

          I never even mention him hugging his son. It’s not the fact that it’s just a black man embracing his son. It’s a fact that it’s a black man accepting his gay crossdressing son. If you can’t see that as something groundbreaking for television, or in life in general. You’re a fool. There’s a problem in this country with alpha male black men being homophobic. It doesn’t stem from me being racist at all, because I’m not. The knowledge comes from having lived in an area of predominantly black people for years, and witnessing how homophobic many black fathers are. Go take a social work class and everyone will tell you the same thing.

  9. nina says:

    I loved the show, i think everyone should give it a chance and judge for yourself.

  10. Dave says:

    Matt, did you finish watching it on your commute? :)

  11. Sam says:

    I enjoyed the pilot Don Cheadle was great and I’m thrilled Kristen Bell is returning to good TV. But my favorite performance was perhaps guest star Anna Camp.
    Unlike Matt I liked the “freeze the action” (but I agree, it wouldn’t hurt the show if it would be dropped soon) and especially the cross-dressing preteen son but I agree with it being outrageous for outrageous sake there was so much sex shoved into the half our that it just became boring and off putting. I didn’t really care for Josh Lawson as the fourth management consultant. The show didn’t really develop or use the other cast members as I had hoped but it’s something I think they can work on. I kind of had a hard time grasping all the “business talk” despite it being dumbed down for us.
    I hope this show does well and be renewed since I think it has the opportunity to grow and really become something.

  12. Completely agree, Matt. The freeze frame and general misogynistic portrayal of women are big turn-offs, which is a shame because there’s a fun, dirty little show hidden in there. Cheadle and Bell are both quite good, but the show needs to decide if it wants to be “sexy” or focus on the real interesting stuff, which is the consulting. Alas because it’s cable and from the creator of “Dirt” I fear it’ll go with the former.

    Our take here:

  13. Lukos58 says:

    Won’t be watching another show about jerks being jerks. The basic premise is a bunch of suits making lots of money for even more suits, usually at the expense of the workers, but they feel bad about it at some level. They try to “humanize” this group by giving them distinctly liberal attitudes their powerful corporate masters wouldn’t like, but at the end of the day, this show is no better than reality shows that want you to like the jerks and the crappy behavior you’ve been watching for the last hour. Yeah, it’s well written, acted and produced…but it’s still glorifying the type of behavior that if happened towards you in your real life, you’d probably punch them in the mouth.

  14. Mandy says:

    For Kristen Bell alone, I would be a dedicated viewer of ths show. The addition of Don Cheadle and the amount of nudity and debauchery this show appears to include makes me really want to watch this show!

  15. T says:

    Really, really liked the show. LOVE Don Cheadle. Loved his character’s apartment and the story line with the son. On the fence about the stop motion stuff, although I can see how it could get old eventually. The hardest part about watching the show was Ben Schwartz and not wanting him to be Jean-Ralphio :)

  16. TheSir says:

    Brilliant pilot, it’s something different and just for that fact alone its freaking awesome. I liked it a lot and the ‘freeze’ scenes rock, if they manage to put those ‘freezes’ at the right moment it can take the show to another level.

    Oh and i love how Don Cheadle plays with the camera from time to time, i laughed so hard in the opening scene when he tries to dress his ex-wife and he falls with his face in to her ass and looks in the camera like ‘common really?’….

  17. Aaron says:

    Featuring a transgender teen is rather ground-breaking and, in my opinion, a plus for the show (especially Cheadle’s phone-rant to the school principal which was a highlight of the show and took a character I wasn’t sure I cared for and placed him squarely in the “Root-for” column.) You should be aware that “cross-dressing” isn’t really the most accepted term, particularly in this fictional situation. Transgender or gender non-conforming are probably more suitable, given the amount of story we’ve been given.