House of Lies: Style and Substance

11 Mar

I am a massive fan of Kristen Bell. I started watching Veronica Mars when it first aired, and it will always be one of my very favorite shows. Kristen picks diverse roles – I enjoyed her turn in Reefer Madness just as much as I enjoyed the adorable You Again. So, I decided I would be watching at least one episode of House of Lies even though I wasn’t sure if it was exactly my style. As it turns out, House of Lies should be everyone’s style. It is witty, absurd, and enthralling. Not just because of Kristen’s presence, but because of excellent writing and a sense of style within the show.

Like Seinfeld, everyone is an awful person. Unlike Seinfeld, it's okay when they're naked.

When I first started watching House of Lies, I wasn’t sure that I loved it. It made me laugh, but all the characters seemed like awful people. The first episode put me off a bit, yet I couldn’t pull myself away and continued plowing through the season. Once I’d watched all the episodes that had aired, I was disappointed that I didn’t have any left. The characters are a bit more flawed than average, but that isn’t a bad thing. I empathized because of how well-written the show really is. That’s the problem with the first episode – you aren’t invested in the characters yet. You have to give them time. At first I wondered who could like Don Cheadle’s smooth-talking back-stabbing businessman, Marty Kaan? But now I root for him on matters such as staying faithful to his stripper semi-girlfriend and getting one over on the guy whose marriage he ruined… you get the idea. Marty makes mistakes, but he’s a sympathetic character.

Don Cheadle plays Marty perfectly, a smug and devious management consultant at Galweather & Stearn that Cheadle makes likable. It’s the supporting cast that really brings the show together, though. His son, Roscoe, who is figuring himself out and completely idealizes Marty. Marty’s father, former psychiatrist Jeremiah who is supportive if somewhat judgmental of Marty’s lifestyle.

Roscoe rocks a scarf like no other

And who could forget his ex-wife, Monica, who is my secret favorite character and is completely deranged and completely fantastic to watch on screen. She also happens to be employed at a rival management consultancy.My sympathy for Monica is what made me realize what a good show this is. By all accounts, I should hate her. But I don’t. The episode where we saw her interacting more with Roscoe was touching because it became clear that she cares about her family. She is desperate for someone to care for her but she is just as selfish as Marty if not more so which makes relationships difficult. Watching her with Roscoe showed her compassion and her vulnerability. She brought him along to break into the home of a married man she’s sleeping with to try to steal from him and recoup her imagined losses. While she tried on fancy dresses and looked for art to steal, Roscoe munched happily on cereal in the pristine modern-style kitchen. I’d totally watch a spin-off of Monica and Roscoe hanging out, preferably with lots of clothing montages.

Moving on to Marty’s team: Jeannie, Clyde, and Doug. Jeannie is played by Kristen Bell, and is somewhat of a more grown-up, more deranged, less moral Veronica Mars. But the humor and heart remains, and despite my anger at some of Jeannie’s actions on the show, I am invested in her figuring her relationships out and hopefully moving up in the Galweather & Stearn hierarchy. She has attempted to be the moral backbone of the team, but has her own moral dilemmas. Jeannie’s dry sense of humor is a good contrast to Clyde and Doug’s goofy antics. Her funniest moments are when she is in the background of a scene, looking at her coworkers appalled and disgusted. She also has the absolute best comebacks and one-liners at the expense of Clyde and Doug, made even funnier by her deadpan delivery.

Clyde (Jean-Ralphio on Parks and Recreation) is ridiculous and annoying, but he is supposed to be and he is a necessary component of the team. Watching him try to pick up girls and fail miserably is always satisfying. Doug is a sad guy, always getting picked on by Clyde, and we recently learned he is a former cross dresser for Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals organization. But together, the team works. They support each other and they have a good time doing it.

This show doesn't discriminate when it comes to scantily clad individuals. Poor Doug...

Another interesting facet of the show is the story of April the bisexual stripper. She is a supporting character who has shown up here and there over the course of the season. She precipitated many of the events that have turned into important story lines, yet we don’t know much about her. However, because the writing of all the characters is so wonderful, I want to know more! I want to get to know just about every minor character who has appeared on the show, but luckily the writers of House of Lies know better than me and keep each 30 minute episode to the point and interesting. They divulge what needs to be known to keep the plot going and keep viewers on the edge of their seats. I still want more April though, she brings out another side of Marty and she helped out Jeremiah. She could exchange fashion tips with Roscoe.

If you had a crush on Angie from That 70's Show, watch House of Lies to see her all grown up

I’ve never been a fan of characters in any medium looking at or talking to the camera but this show pulls it off. Marty often freezes what’s around him to explain who people are, what’s going on, or whatever terrible thing he is likely about to do to them. Sometimes he actually alters what they are doing, such as putting Doug’s dirty hands into Clyde’s drink. Stylistically, it works perfectly, and I now love these little glimpses into his thoughts. It’s also necessary to explain some of the lingo used. I like getting to watch the interactions as they happen with Marty’s translations as opposed to watching a simplified version. Visually, the show is crisp and clean, with lots of black and white. It makes the whole experience feel sleek and pulls the viewer into the world of Galweather & Stearn.

I look forward to this show every week and you should too. Give it a try and let me know what you think! Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime. Don’t have Showtime? You can watch an edited version of the pilot here: House of Lies Pilot

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5 Responses to “House of Lies: Style and Substance”

  1. Krystal Rose March 12, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    I’ve seen a few episodes of House of Lies, I missed the beginning but from what I saw it was entertaining. Plus, I LOVE Don Cheadle. He’s a great actor. Enjoyed your post about the show. I am hoping to catch the other episodes on demand. Thanks for commenting on my post and following 🙂

    • Emily March 12, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

      I wasn’t a big Don Cheadle fan before and I can’t pinpoint why but I think he’s perfect for this show! I’ll definitely have to check out some of his other stuff. You absolutely should catch up, last night’s episode was craaaazy! Actually, they’re all kind of crazy…

  2. kjewls March 12, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    I love your take on the show! I was introduced to House of Lies through the promotional free pilot episode, lost track of it for a while, and then was reintroduced to it, during one of its “marathon” sessions. It’s not a perfect show, by any means. But I think it’s been really coming into its own, particularly in the last few episodes.

    As you mentioned, the characters are starting to feel a bit more fleshed out now. We’re getting to see a lot more humanity in Marty, through his interaction with his super cool son, Roscoe, his father, and his girlfriend. Doug is surprisingly innocent and childlike for a Harvard-educated consultant. (His “I’m over-d-ing” comment, this past week was hilarious.) Jeannie, though admittedly a bit sluttier than one might initially suspect (Veronica Mars, you naughty, naughty girl!) is admirably loyal to Marty and her team. Plus, I find her occasional shows of insecurity, and fear of commitment, sympathetic. As for Clyde and Marty’s ex . . . well . . . 🙂

    Plus, some of the more annoying gimmicks that were featured heavily in the pilot episode (the shameless tossing around of consultant “lingo,” and that whole “freeze frame” talk to the camera “thing) are now being used much more sparingly, and to better effect. Example: I actually liked the freeze frame moment in the night club, this past week, whereas I hated the ones in the pilot almost exclusively.

    I’m actually really eager to see where this show goes in the future. I suspect that next season will be even better than this one.

    Oh, and P.S. I adore your Seinfeld comparison montage. As for George not looking so hot naked well . . . “HE WAS IN THE POOL! Blame the shrinkage.” 🙂

    • Emily March 13, 2012 at 1:59 am #

      I’ve had a hard time getting other people to watch it because they watch one episode, aren’t really hooked on the characters yet and give up! I am very glad that they made the freeze frame less often, and that they use it like they did in that dance scene as opposed to using it to show us flash cards. I am sooo confused about Jeannie… I want her to get it together! But I love her anyway haha. I feel so bad for Doug sometimes, other times I’m like welll you deserve that buddy! My favorite sequences are probably when Jeannie insults Doug AND Clyde though, like that one time when she said something along the lines of “What are you fatties talking about, diets?” and for some reason that absolutely cracked me up!

      Poor George… he was the Doug of Seinfeld!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. And the Em-y goes to… « Here Are Things I Like - July 19, 2012

    […] some of my favorite. I’ve talked about House of Lies and my thoughts on Monica more in-depth previously because I  feel that more people need to experience how darkly funny this show really […]

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