Recently, Showtime decided to give all of us a little nugget and release the entire pilot of their new show, House of Lies, on YouTube. I have been so entirely excited for this show to release. I’ve heard such amazing things about Homeland (I’m new to Showtime and haven’t watched it, don’t judge). Couple that with the cast, and you’re sure to have a winner. Don Cheadle is so versatile and amazing. Kristen Bell is a goddess. Jean-Ralphio is HILARIOUS, he has to be just ripping joke after joke.
These things, I thought, were obvious statements. It turns out obvious statements – straight to camera, no less – are exactly what I got.
I will preface the review I’m about to give with a statement. And that statement is this: this pilot was not terrible. Not a ringing endorsement I realize, but it’s important to remember that a lot of good shows have sprung from awkward pilots (such as America’s version of The Office). Sometimes shows can really hit their stride after a few episodes in, so it’s important not to throw a show completely out the window based on one episode.
There isn’t a lot I feel like House of Lies has going for it. The characters seem overdone and cliche to the extreme. Marty is the asshole. Jeanie is the no-nonsense independent woman. Both are secretly lonely and it manifests itself in completely different ways. She swears they’ll never sleep together, which means they probably will. Marty refuses to be Dr. Phil’d by his retired shrink father when he has hate-sex with his psycho ex-wife, who happens to have his position in a competing consulting firm. He has a gender-confused son who tries to Kurt Hummell his way into a musical. Jeanie, of course, can take care of herself, and has frozen her own eggs to prove it. She is confident, self-sufficient, and married to her job.
The pilot leads us down the rosy path of redemption. Each characters flaws are displayed in detail, with a hint that we will get to their cores, learn more about them, grow to understand and care about them. The thing is, I don’t care. I’ve seen these people before, I wanted to see some new ones. So you’ve got a tired plot in one hand, half-ass character development in the other; and then you throw in the commentary. Of course, the common watcher may not know a thing about consulting jargon, so it would make sense to want to explain it. However, I really don’t think everyone watching ER is a doctor, or needs to have someone look into the screen and explain what an aortic dissection is.
I have no problem with Marty talking to the camera. In fact, the one part of the pilot I did really like was the presentation to the bank toward the end. Marty looks at the camera and says, “you’ve got the company that has the US by the balls… by the balls.” That’s the kind of commentary and humor that this show needs and that this pilot lacked. I felt like every time he looked the camera and explained a term like data dump, I was watching a cheesy training video about consulting on my first day at the firm. I don’t think a show needs to be dumbed down to that point. They should be relying on clever writing telling a story and this just felt lazy. Shows walk the line between correct and believable while still appealing to mass audiences.
I will give House of Lies an honest chance, a real one. The potential is just too great for me to ignore. And like I said, the pilot wasn’t terrible. It was just underwhelming. I was disappointed in the lack of depth and intelligence in it.
I give this episode 2.5/5 bears, so your rating glass can be half empty or half full. You pick.