HOUSE OF LIES 1.04 ‘Mini-Mogul’

Doug opens up to Roscoe while Jeannie gets engaged and hooks up with a random musician.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Mini-Mogul"

Writer: Thomas Bezucha

Director: Stephen Hopkins

I suspect that many "House of Lies" viewers have been eagerly awaiting the episode in which Kristen Bell dances around in her underwear. As the picture above indicates, that time has arrived. And while Bell's night moves are a nice momentary distraction, there's not a lot of comedy in this show. Or to put it another way, there's not a lot of meat on these bones.

In theory, "Mini-Mogul" has the perfect setup to force Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle) and his son, Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.) to spend time together; when both Marty's ex-wife, Monica Talbot (Dawn Olivieri) and his father, Jeremiah Kaan (Glynn Turman) are away on vacation screwing other people. Thus, Marty has to drag Roscoe along on a business trip with Jeannie Van Der Hooven (Kristen Bell), Doug Guggenheim (Josh Lawson) and Clyde Oberholt (Ben Schwartz).

After four episodes, I still don't really buy Roscoe as a character. The only time that Roscoe seems like a genuine human being is when he's talking about being bullied at school. Roscoe actually works best as a catalyst for the other characters. Without Roscoe's father around to lend a sympathetic ear, Doug relates a tale tp Roscoe about his own struggles with bullying throughout his life and he basically tells Roscoe that the bullies are simply jealous and insecure.

The tragedy of Doug is that the bullying in his life has never really stopped. Doug still gets the brunt of the ill-treatment from his so-called friends and colleagues. Under the guise of helping Doug hook up with a cute bartender, Clyde urges him to be like George Clooney; which couldn't have possibly have gone over well. But I will note that Ben Schwartz did a good job of briefly imitating one of Clooney's most common facial expressions.

Even Marty gets a few rare moments of humanity when he sees that his son is still thoughtful towards him despite his casual neglect. And so, Marty takes out all of the anger he feels towards himself on his ex-wife's voice-messaging service before he realizes that they are both failures as parents. Marty also tries to finally speak to Roscoe about his harassment at school, but the kid repeats the advice that Doug gave him. Roscoe definitely loves his dad (and vice-versa), but when he needed actual parenting, Roscoe went elsewhere.

Jeannie is another lost soul on Marty's team and the pieces of her life that are revealed in this episode don't seem to add up. Despite Jeannie's eagerness to hook up with an old acquaintance two episodes ago, it turns out that she's engaged to Wes Spencer (Michael Rady), a man whom she seems to be bored with already. The slight incongruity between the episodes could be explained if Jeannie is just trying to find excitement in her life that Wes isn't giving her.

As if on cue, a dashing musician named Kurt (Nick Stahl) appears and charms Jeannie into bed before delving into her father issues in some painfully on-the-nose dialog. The only moment of Jeannie's sexy dance that worked on anything more than a visceral level was when she abruptly stopped to look in the mirror and didn't like what she saw.  

Meanwhile, Marty was constantly dealing with Alex Katsnelson (Ryan Pinkston), a young internet security system millionaire who is being forced out of his own company. I've never gotten the impression that Marty liked his clients, but Alex may be the first client for whom Marty barely hides his disdain. Alex may be rich, but he's also despised by his friends and employees. Not to mention that his female employees only put up with his sexual advances because they're attracted to his money. 

It turns out that Alex is not only a bad boss, but he's also unscrupulous enough to hide a backdoor in the programming of his newest computer security program. Armed with that knowledge, Marty and his team blackmail Alex into stepping down in favor of his board before also convincing him to recommend them for the coveted afterwork.

"House of Lies" still feels like it could eventually become a good show, and there's nothing wrong with it on a technical level. It just feels very empty and vapid, much like Marty Kann himself. Somehow, this series needs to find its soul. And some better jokes throughout the entire episode would also be appreciated. The potential quality of "House of Lies" will only carry it so far. At some point, it has to deliver.

Crave Online Rating: 6.8 out of 10.