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Case Number 25092

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House of Lies: The First Season

Showtime Entertainment // 2012 // 347 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 9th, 2013

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson lives in a house of lice.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of House of Lies: The Third Season (published January 27th, 2015), House of Lies: The Fourth Season (published April 16th, 2016), and House of Lies: The Second Season (published February 15th, 2014) are also available.

The Charge

Survival of the slickest.

Opening Statement

Showtime puts more skin in the original series game—literally.

Facts of the Case

In the world of management consulting, few are as successful—and horny—as Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle, Iron Man 2). Regularly dispatched to big-time corporations that are in desperate need of image makeovers or complex solutions to organizational problems, Marty and his crew apply their fast-talking, pants-dropping skills to rescue their clients from the abyss of bankruptcy…or worse.

Along for the ride is Marty's up-and-coming shark-to-be, Jeannie (Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars), who's got the charm, smarts, and diabolical edge to carve her name into the House of Lies' book of legends. She just needs a little bit of real-world experience and the guiding hand of Marty. Unfortunately for her, she has no idea where that hand's been.

The Evidence

Smarmy innuendo aside, what brings down House of Lies isn't the fleshy nether-regions of its foul-mouthed supporting cast, it's the simple fact that this show isn't funny. Which is a deal-breaker because what we're left with is the character work and the plot lines, neither of which bring the win. On the other hand, one of those elements fail less, so I suppose that's a victory.

That element is the storytelling, which crackles at times. What the writing team lacks in joke-telling, they make up for in decently crafted corporate yarns. The current-events similarities are impossible to ignore, but this isn't some half-assed "ripped from the headlines" network procedural. These stories find inspiration in contemporary Wall Street tomfoolery, and flesh out unique story arcs. The inside baseball corporate maneuvering is interesting, buttressed by a steady stream of colorful episode-specific characters.

It's a bummer the lead characters aren't as interesting. Schwartz' Clyde cracks wise, but it's the opposite of his Parks and Recreation Jean-Ralphio obviousness. This dude is a straight-up douchebag, whose schtick isn't helped by the fact that the writers give him about a 5-1 ratio of funny-to-unfunny lines.

But the biggest disappointments are Bell and Cheadle, both of whom trade in wit and charm for one-dimensional, half-baked hear-me-roar feminism (Bell) and preening a-holery (Cheadle). Exhibit A: Multiple times in each episode, Marty freezes time and addresses the audience, informing us about cool management consultant colloquialisms. Yes, he's Zack Morris.

Showtime's House of Lies: The First Season gives us decent standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers, Dolby 5.1 Surround mixes, and English closed captioned subtitles. Extras include two commentary tracks and four small behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Closing Statement

Come for the promise of nipples and fictional corporate shenanigans, stay for…well, maybe there's not a whole lot to stay for actually.

The Verdict


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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 80
Acting: 80
Story: 65
Judgment: 66

Perp Profile

Studio: Showtime Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
• English (CC)
Running Time: 347 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Drama
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentaries
• Featurettes


• IMDb

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