Veronica Mars star Kristen Bell is scheduled, along with House of Lies Co-star Ben Schwartz, to pop up for a few episodes next season on Parks and Recreation. Schwartz will obviously be reprising a role he’s been shining in since the shows second season, the hilarious Jean-Ralphio. As Jean-Ralphio he is sure to annoy Ron Swanson and make life a little harder for his best friend Tom Haverford.
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.
Not too long ago, we told you all about House of Lies, a new show coming soon to Showtime. The network liked the new show enough to order 12 episodes of the show, which we now know will premiere on Sunday, January 8th, 2012 at 10 pm.
House of Lies will star Don Cheadle as Marty, who every piece of news is describing as a “cutthroat/self-loathing consultant of a top-tier firm.” And also, apparently he’s a real envelope-pusher who threw out his moral compass before he came to work. The show will also star Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Dawn Olivieri (Heroes), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation) and Glynn Turman (the creepy old black guy from Super 8).
In an interview with the website Zap2it, Kristen Bell talks about her character and about the series:
Kristen Bell: Really anything. It’s basically a group of cutthroat management consultants that will do whatever is necessary to get the job and the after-work. It’s murky as to what they actually really do, which I think is the actual description of consultants. If someone has a problem, we come and fix it — you’re downsizing, you need to stop fighting, whatever needs to be done. And their moral compasses are a little bit wonky. … But there’s a dynamic between the four of us — Don Cheadle, me, Josh Lawson and Ben Schwartz — that’s very fun. We travel together all the time, we spend 100 hours a week together.
So it’s kind of our life as traveling salesmen.
Would you call it a comedy, a dark comedy, what?
KB: It’s a dark comedy — a dark dramedy, I’d say actually. Tonally, it’s very Showtime.
What about the role appealed to you?
KB: I’d been searching for the right TV project. I knew I didn’t want anything built around me, for the reason of it’s difficult to be No. 1 on the call sheet. It’s a very different workload than No. 2. But also I wanted to find a writer or creator who had a story to tell, who wasn’t just like, “OK, what can we do with her?” I didn’t want it to be sold on me; I wanted to be part of a good project. And I trust Matthew Carnahan [“Dirt”], our creator, implicitly. I think he’s very funny, he’s very dark, he’s very provocative. I think Showtime also has a lot more they can do with storylines — what they show, the subject matter they broach. And working with Don Cheadle is not a bad thing. He’s pretty exceptional, both as a human being and as an actor, and I just feel like I’m learning a lot from him. I’m trying to absorb how he works.
KB: Then you’re No. 1 on the call sheet, when you completely represent a show, there’s so much more that’s required of you. You’re in every frame of the show, but there’s also the publicity aspect that’s a reality for us. There’s just a lot more on your shoulders, a lot more pressure. There’s a lot more pressure when you’re the main component of a show, and I didn’t want that pressure. I wanted to have fun, and this has actually been really fun.
Can you talk more about your character?
KB: I don’t know if I can. A lot is revealed in the first three episodes. She’s very compartmentalized. She has a lot of issues.
I’d imagine that in a show called “House of Lies” the people probably aren’t squeaky-clean.
KB: Yeah — she’s very flawed. All the characters are kind of flawed. So the dynamics are a little bit deeper — no one is exactly what you think they are. That’s partly because their line of work bleeds over into their personal lives. They’re chameleons. They transform into whatever the client needs them to be and do whatever they need to get the job. If you need us to be firm, we’re firm. You need us to be soft, we’re soft. You need us to rub your back, we’ll rub your back. The ability to transform to get what you want is what bleeds into my character’s personal life.
KB: There are many facets to my character’s personality, and every time they come up with a new one they’re like, “Oh yeah, and she’s this, and she believes this. Which could be directly contradictory to something we’ve already established, but that’s what they’re asking me to do, and it’s really exciting as an actor.
I look forward to DVRing this in January!
Summer is still in full swing, but one thing is captivating the minds of TV execs – Fall TV programming! With so many shows crashing and burning in the last year (The Event, Camelot, Detroit 1-8-7) and so many veteran programs having seen their last (Friday Night Lights, Smallville, Rescue Me), there are some large spots to fill. Showtime promises to provide some interesting heavy hitters under the regime of new president, David Nevins; including an order for 12 episodes of House of Lies, written and executive-produced by Matthew Carnahan (Dirt).
House of Lies is loosely based on the novel House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time by Martin Kihn, a satirical commentary that attempts to break down the fluffy misconceptions of the consulting business. His stance is that consulting is mostly a joke that became profitable; and that anyone will listen to an Ivy Leaguer with an MBA who wears a nice suit and uses fancy-pants words like “paradigm” and “granular.” Even if this finely pressed suit is spooning you information that you already know and taking credit for a success that isn’t theirs.
House of Lies (the TV show) will be a dark comedy that follows the career of consultant, Marty (Don Cheadle), who is described as “cutthroat,” without a moral compass to guide him as he does anything and everything necessary to succeed. The show will also star Kristen Bell (that native Detroiter that we love!) as Jeannie, a razor-sharp Ivy League grad, who is alleged to act as a voice of reason.
I think this show has the power to premiere to strong numbers. Not only does it have an all-star cast lineup, but it sounds pretty darn interesting and hilarious. Having worked for a consultancy firm, I’m curious to see how much steam they take from Martin Kihn’s book. I’ve heard he really tears the whole institution apart in it. Which is funny in my book, because consultants are all self-righteous stuffed peacocks who think that the ground they walk on turns to gold and that they shit sunshine and rainbows. If the show makes fun of consulting as much as I hope they do, I will be a fan for life.
[Editor’s Note: I’ve included an interview with Bell that has almost nothing to do with the show. How can you not like her?!?!]
House of Lies has started production and will begin filming soon. Look for it to hit Showtime in the Fall 2011 or Spring 2012 lineups!