By Kate O‚ÄôHare
Down a metal staircase is a lounge near the main bar, with Persian rugs and exposed brick walls, cluttered with more furniture, where the crew of Showtime‚Äôs new comedy House of Lies has set up shop for the day.
Created by Matthew Carnahan, the half-hour show is based on Martin Kihn‚Äôs book House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time. Be forewarned, this series isn‚Äôt for the mannerly. It‚Äôs raw and at times raunchy, the language crude and the characters unapologetic for their unscrupulous morals, all of which combine to make it a scandalously fun new comedy/drama.
Leading the series is Don Cheadle as Marty Kaan, a top performer at a high-end consulting firm, who is not exactly overflowing with scruples and business ethics when it comes to convincing companies they need his team‚Äôs services and should pay top dollar (along with an open spigot of perks). But Marty‚Äôs quick to explain his rationale on things, in quick freeze-frame confessionals of a sort interspersed through the series.
In this particular episode, the quest to please a client has led Marty‚Äôs team down those stairs and into a dark club. To the accompaniment of throbbing music, things get intermittently interesting between Marty and ambitious team member Jeannie Van Der Hooven (Kristen Bell), and intermittently weird between team members Clyde Oberholt (Ben Schwartz) and Doug Guggenheim (Josh Lawson).
‚ÄúThey‚Äôre not great,‚ÄĚ says Bell of her dancing skills afterward (with high-heeled shoes off as soon as filming is done). ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre all right. Listen, comparatively, to the four men I‚Äôm dancing with, I‚Äôm Baryshnikov on that dance floor.‚ÄĚ
Seated in an ornate, high-backed chair off the dance floor, Cheadle describes his character as ‚Äúcomplicated and dark and messed up, in a good way. He‚Äôs dealt with some tragedy when he was young, at a pretty significant time in his development, when these things tend to happen to people, and it changes the heart of who you‚Äôre going to be.
‚ÄúAnd if you don‚Äôt get back to it and really ever deal with it, you‚Äôre on that path forever. Marty, as we will see in the series, is not really dealing with what‚Äôs happening to him.‚ÄĚ
Asked how Marty wound up in consulting, Cheadle says, ‚ÄúI think it‚Äôs as much that he ran toward this as he ran away from something else and just figured out that, fortunately or unfortunately, he had skills in this area. The things that saved him, in a way, are ultimately things that are his undoing in other situations.
‚ÄúHe has a certain fearlessness and a recklessness, a real sort of Machiavellian delight in manipulating situations.‚ÄĚ
Curled in a large red chair at the top of the stairs, Bell reveals that her character Jeannie ‚ÄĒ an Ivy League grad with a sketchy past ‚ÄĒ is no less interesting than her boss.
‚ÄúShe is quite mysterious,‚ÄĚ she says, ‚Äúand that is the reputation that she would like to have. Jeannie doesn‚Äôt want you to know too much about her. She‚Äôs extremely compartmentalized ‚ÄĒ one part of her life does not relate to the other.
‚ÄúShe‚Äôs not diseased. She is choosing when to pick up her integrity and when to put it down. She may have come from a meager background, but she is a go-getter. No mistake, she wants your job, no matter what the job is.
‚ÄúShe‚Äôs almost hungrier than Marty is, in a few different ways, although she keeps that hidden. As much as she gets along with him, she‚Äôs still ready to pounce when another position opens up for her to move up.
‚ÄúShe has very high hopes for herself. She simply said, ‚ÄėI‚Äôm going to succeed,‚Äô and she made it happen no matter what the cost.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúMarty loves her,‚ÄĚ says Cheadle, ‚Äúwants to see her do well, sees her as a mentee, a person that he‚Äôs grooming. But it‚Äôs a real tough love. It‚Äôs a ‚ÄėGreat Santini‚Äô kind of thing.‚ÄĚ
House of Lies premieres on Showtime Sunday Jan. 8.
Preview the first episode here!
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