I honestly can't decide if I like Showtime's new dark comedy "House of Lies," or if I hate it.
I like the cast a lot -- Don Cheadle, Kristen Bell ("Veronica Mars"), Ben Schwartz ("Parks and Recreation"), and Australian actor Josh Lawson. But I really do hate the characters they play. I hate what they do and how they do it and who they do it for.
"House of Lies" follows a group of highly paid managment consultants who essentially hustle their super wealthy clients while helping those clients hustle the rest of us.
Cheadle plays the leader of the group, Marty Kaan. In addition to being an exceedingly slick huckster, he's also a divorced single dad with primary custody, and he depends on his own father (played by Glynn Turman) for help caring for his son. Marty also has a souped-up libido, which is evident from the first eye-popping scene in episode 1. (Do not watch this series when the kids are around!!).
I watched five episodes and found it mostly off-putting.
The performances are fine, but I neither felt any affection for nor connection to the main characters (the consultants). What's worse, I didn't find them particularly interesting. I did find Marty Kaan's father and son interesting. His dad is a widower and a retired psychiatrist and his pre-teen son is a budding cross-dresser. Watching Marty struggle with his own attitudes toward his son -- and with constantly getting his father's advice on the matter -- is way more interesting to me than watching him bang random women in public restrooms (and there's a lot more of the latter than the former here).
Oh yes, I should also mention that a striking feature of the show is that they often freeze the action in a scene so that Marty can break the fourth wall and explain some consulting lingo or sketchy consulting practice to the audience. It just feels gimmicky. It feels like "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" or "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and it usually kills the momentum of the scenes.
I'm not saying it's a bad show, I'm just saying it didn't appeal to me. But it has enough fine elements (great cast, great promotion from Showtime, and great amount of nudity) that I do think it will appeal to a lot of other people.
And it doesn't hurt that this weekend is a free preview weekend for Showtime (around here, DirecTV customers are getting the special access) and that they are showing the first episode free on their website for a limited time.
"House of Lies" premieres tonight at 10pm on Showtime.