House of Lies: Pilot “The Gods of Dangerous Financial Instruments” review

12 Jan

I’ve been a fan of Kristen Bell ever since Veronica Mars so I was enthusiastically looking forward to this series. But this isn’t really in any way Veronica Mars especially since it is a Don Cheadle vehicle.  So if you were in any way hoping for any type of Veronica Mars-like elements, just let it go.  I had to.  This show is all about Don Cheadle’s character, Marty Kaan, the Hank Moody of Management Consultants.  Now, the only real problem with this is that Management Consultants are not actually glamourous.  They are um…. boring.  At least all the management consultants I’ve met.  So, I’m looking forward to seeing if House of Lies created by Matthew Carnahan (Fastlane, Dirt) can keep me entertained this season.

Now, I will give the pilot points for the clever beginning because as I watched Marty try to dress his naked and very wasted sex partner only to discover as his son walks in (SPOILER ALERT!) that this is his ex-wife, Monica Talbot (Dawn Olivieri).  Even more surprising is that about halfway through the episode we discover (SPOILER ALERT again) that she’s his chief competition in the consulting business and usually smarter than him – she has the #1 Consulting firm to his #2.  There is something refreshing about the line Marty says to Monica, “… you’re a sociopath and an addict and I can’t even stand to look at you right now…” and her reply is, “Right back attcha…”  Then you suddenly have a clear idea of the characters you are dealing with.  Fatally flawed.  The show has some hope.  Because seriously, who wants to watch normal characters?  If I want to see normal, I’ll go to Ralph’s and watch people shopping.  I don’t have to pay a monthly subscription for that.

Domestically, Marty has a full plate, his live-in retired psychologist father, Jeremiah (Glynn Turman) fully judges and doles out advice, ignoring, for the most part, the fact that he helped shape his sociopath son into what he’s become.  An even bigger handful seems to be Marty’s skirt-wearing adolescent son, Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.), who announces he’s trying out for the role of Sandy in his school’s production of Grease.  We learn by the end of the episode that not even Roscoe’s dreams are safe from Marty’s desires as he negotiates his son’s hard won lead role away from him so he can sleep with his stage rival’s mother — during the performance of the show.

Professionally, Marty and his Pod (his consulting group – I really hate business jargon – I’m convinced it’s created by men with very small penises) must win the New York City mortgage banking client, MetroCapital (one of the evil companies that helped ruin our economy).  His contact and rival, Greg Norbert (Greg Germann who has never failed to entertain me yet), go head to head although they really should be on the same team.  Marty and his Pod expense a night with strippers as a legitimate business dinner.  Really?  Ok that was really just pathetic.  No, I’m not a prude, but strippers?  That is just unimaginative and honestly, the only thing that saves that narrative misstep is the payoff when Marty’s stripper pretends to be his wife at business dinner with Norbert the next night.

By the end of the first episode, I’m intrigued enough to want to keep watching this show, because the characters are appropriately flawed and will do things that will get them into enough trouble to keep me entertained.   And it looks like Greg Germann will appear in more episodes and he’s a great foil every time.  Not that Marty’s greatest foil isn’t simply himself and his screwed up desires.  But a little extra always helps.

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