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TV review: ‘House of Lies’

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Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell don’t seem to be having much fun on Showtime’s new comedy, ‘House of Lies’.

The Details

House of Lies
Two and a half stars
Sundays, 10 p.m., Showtime.

It’s awesome that premium-cable shows can feature explicit sex and nudity, but with that great power comes great responsibility—to not let the lack of restrictions overwhelm the goal of telling a good story with interesting characters. Showtime’s new comedy House of Lies tries so hard to be edgy and daring that it comes off as painfully desperate; the first scene of the first episode features stars Don Cheadle and Dawn Olivieri lying naked in bed together, and nearly every one of the five episodes available for review is filled with gratuitous sex and button-pushing dialogue that only highlights how empty the rest of the show is.

The parade of naked hotties is meant to emphasize the self-indulgent nature of the main characters’ work in management consulting, in which they’re paid huge amounts of money to tell other companies how to conduct business. There’s some decent material for satire there, but creator Matthew Carnahan mostly goes for easy jokes, and is more interested in the characters’ sexual exploits than in their business deals.

The strong cast also includes Kristen Bell and Ben Schwartz, but the supporting characters don’t have a whole lot to do, and while Cheadle is charming as consulting wunderkind Marty Kaan, his cute fourth-wall-breaking asides get old quickly. Efforts to give Marty depth via a tragic backstory feel as forced as the sex scenes. Carnahan pushed a similar sex-and-sleaze agenda on his short-lived FX celebrity-tabloid drama Dirt; House of Lies is livelier and funnier, but not much more entertaining.

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