House of Lies: The First Season
Much as Californication highlighted the vulgarity, superficiality and self-serving indulgence of the pretentious Los Angeles arts crowd, similarly structured and prurient Showtime series House of Lies suggests similar inclinations within a greedy corporate environment. It exacerbates the artifice of it all by pivoting upon a group of management consultants — an ill-defined, B.S. job if ever there was one — led by the cynical, practical and wholly corrupt Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle). His charming disposition and capacity to convince any given client to buy his various strategies — all of which are weirdly out-dated and rarely consider rudimentary workforce management principles — have afforded him a luxurious lifestyle and an abundance of "pussy," even though he routinely steps back, in stylistic fourth-wall breaking freeze frame, to dissect and criticize the world he has mastered. Surrounded by lackeys with varying motivations — Jeanne (Kristen Bell), the sarcastic, career-driven moral center with daddy issues; Clyde (Ben Schwartz), the overly confident, sleazy go-getter; and Doug (Josh Lawson), the socially awkward Harvard grad — he flies from business to business consulting, when not screwing stripper law student April (Megalyn Echicunwoke) or tenuously playing daddy to his transvestite son, Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.). Though every episode has a preoccupation with all things sexual — when they go to Utah, Clyde struggles with the prospect of sodomizing a Mormon after she eats a big chicken dinner with corn-on-the-cob — the metaphor of "fucking" works as a double-edged sword, either helping the Galweather consultants land business or screwing them out of it. In fact, the central plot thread through the first season stems from a business dinner that Marty has with MetroCapital number two guy Greg Norbert (Greg Germann), where his stripper girlfriend makes Greg's wife squirt in the restroom. Pissed off about the dissolution of his superficial marriage, Greg makes a bid to buy out Galweather, thus making Marty one of his underlings. This story, along with an abundance of male power plays involving "the Rainmaker" (Griffin Dunne), keep the series moving forward amidst the copious nudity and drug-induced sexual explorations. And while the writing is often clever and Bell's natural comic timing works perfectly with the show's dynamic, the preoccupation with breasts and degrading sex acts denigrates the overall quality. Yes, the metaphor of screwing everyone for personal gain or individual want works well, but there's more to say about the ego-driven narcissism and insincere posturing of the corporate environment. Hopefully, these untouched aspects are examined in more detail throughout the second season. Included with the DVD set are some brief interviews and commentary tracks on the first and last episodes. None of it is particularly insightful or revolutionary, but it does give some context to the crass, glossy aesthetic of the series.
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