Episode Title: "Utah"
Writer: David Walpert
Director: Adam Bernstein
There was something that struck me about the latest episode of "House of Lies." These are not management consultants, they're con artists. Although, I admittedly don't know enough about management consultants to say whether they are truly synonymous with con artists. But one thing is clear: the characters on this show are horrible people. And I think that I hate them all.
To a certain degree, I understand the dilemma facing TV comedy writers. Television critics (including myself) call out for shows that break away from the s****y formulaic series like "Whitney" and "Are You There, Chelsea?" in favor of more daring comedies that give us protagonists who aren't afraid to be unsympathetic or politically incorrect.
In short, we'd love to get a great comedy series with an edge. But the biggest problem facing "House of Lies" is that it has nothing but edge. And there don't seem to be any human hearts beneath the chests of these shallow people.
Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle) remains the most compelling character on the show, but he only vaguely feels real when he shows genuine fear over the pending MetroCapital acquisition of his employers, Galweather & Stearn; which could cost Marty the career and lifestyle that he loves so dearly. And as The Rainmaker (Griffin Dunne) reminds him, Marty is only as valuable as his last assignment, Any slip ups could mean his job.
All of this is not a license for Marty to be a huge a**hole, but he opts for that route anyway. When Marty's team travels to Utah to consult for the family owned, StayRite Hotel chain; Marty realizes that the CEO, Brant Butterfield ( Peter Mackenzie) is a quiet racist. Oh sure, Brant will shake Marty's hand and be polite, but he obviously won't take him seriously as a consultant. But the only color that Marty cares about is green, so he puts Jeannie Van Der Hooven (Kristen Bell) in charge of landing the account while he strikes up a friendship with Paul ( Michael McMillian), the secretly Jewish CFO.
When Jeannie and Doug Guggenheim (Josh Lawson) go over the books of the StayRite chain, they discover that their services aren't really needed. The hotel business is doing just fine without them, which only makes them desperate to land the account by any means possible. And if that means fudging the numbers and presenting a plan that will only lightly increase profits, then so be it. Not that Marty is any help at all during the run up to the presentation. Marty berates Jeannie's idea to convince the CEO to expand the business and he basically treats her like crap.
Regardless, Jeannie manages to win over Brant in the room, but one of her fudged numbers catches the eye of Paul. Rather than let Jeannie wiggle out of the jam by herself, Marty leaps out of his chair with a BS excuse that just barely covers his implied threat to unmask Paul's non-Morman status. Later on the plane home, Marty rips into Jeannie for screwing up the numbers. And in turn, Jeannie fires back at Marty by astutely noting that he needlessly made enemies at MetroCaptial because he couldn't keep his libido under control. Jeannie also says that her fate is tied to Marty's, for better or worse. But Marty is definitely not mentor material.
On the homefront, Marty's sexually confused son, Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.) gets some unexpected "quality time" with his unstable mother, Monica Talbot (Dawn Olivieri) after Marty's father, Jeremiah Kaan (Glynn Turman) goes on a trip. And if you thought that Marty was a piece of work, then you'll soon see that Monica outshines him as a grade A sociopath. Marty's a bad dad and a terrible person, but Monica is a monster.
Monica's idea of a good time turns out to be bringing her son along on a robbery of her former lover's house just because he opted to take his wife on an exotic trip after rejecting Monica. Thus Monica states that the only suitable action is to steal one of the man's priceless (and grotesque) paintings while rationalizing that it isn't a break-in because she knew the security code.
Monica also becomes obsessed with the idea that the ugliness of the painting may hide a deeper beauty beneath, in a rare moment of self reflection. But I'm not sure that this counts as subtext when it's so overt. And when Roscoe wakes up in the morning, he finds that his mother hasn't slept or stopped staring at the painting, forcing the kid to find his own way to school. Is it any wonder why Roscoe then leaps into his dad's arms at the next chance that he gets? Marty may have a lot of faults, but he's definitely a more comforting parent than Monica.
The C-plot of the week dealt with the improbable ladies man, Clyde Oberholt (Ben Schwartz) successfully seducing a devout Mormon woman, Rebecca Pfrommer (Anna Rose Hopkins) while on the StayRite assignment. Rebecca also happens to be a StayRite employee and a "technical virgin;" which means that she's open to anal sex. But the entire subplot is extremely scatological and it revolves around Clyde's fear of anal sex and all that it may imply for his manhood. But it's just not funny. Schwartz and Lawson actually play off one another with skill, but even they can't make this material work. Once again, the writers of "House of Lies" seem to feel that they can get away with anything as long as they show a woman's naked butt.
But this is supposed to be a comedy. If nothing else, "House of Lies" should at least make us laugh. At best, it gets a couple of chuckles. And that's not the hallmark of a great series.
Crave Online Rating: 6.5 out of 10.