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.
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.
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.
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.
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