“House of Lies” is Matthew Carnahan’s latest comedy on Showtime, based on the book House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time by Martin Kihn. Currently in its third season, the show stars Don Cheadle as Marty Kaan, a big-time management consultant. Kaan and his team, played by Kirsten Bell, Josh Lawson and Ben Schwartz, solve a company’s latest problem every week, brashly offering their two cents on how their clients can make even more money by using just about every trick to get the information clients want.
In each 30-minute episode, Kaan and his associates make a mockery out of the industry, from bizarre board meetings to extravagant social lifestyles. Admittedly, I first watched the show out of curiosity and an affinity for Bell. I could care less for the other characters, who all seemed to be egotistic and incredibly obnoxious. However, the storyline began to evolve as the show progressed, and I found myself hooked. I wanted to understand why Marty and his wife got a divorce and how this affected his inability to commit. I soon realized why Jeannie kept her personal life a secret from her co-workers and witnessed the nerdy Doug settle down with his equally nerdy girlfriend, Sarah. It was these back-stories that helped balance the show’s innate absurdity.
Bell plays the role of Jeannie effortlessly. As the only female lead, she is a revelation, no longer relegated to being the associate that jokes around with the boys. Her complicated relationship with Kaan keeps the viewer guessing because she is unwilling to act on her feelings. Her unwavering commitment to her job is somewhat admirable, but it leads her to act impulsively if it means closing a deal. It’s during these scenes that Bell is most effective, because Jeannie can get into rather compromising situations that are almost unbelievable. She can be extremely calculating and manipulative but also outspoken and empowering — a far cry from the usual femme fatale.
As Kaan, Cheadle is both deplorable and charming; despite his questionable antics, he merits the viewer’s sympathy. I personally love watching him interact with his bi-sexual teenage son, Roscoe, as well as his own father. In fact, Cheadle’s convincing performance earned him last year’s Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series.
Although “House of Lies” may offer an exaggerated version of the consulting industry, it is surprisingly entertaining and serves as somewhat of a preview of what the job of a consultant really entails. After two seasons, I definitely think that the show has finally found its identity, and can only get better from here on. With the characters no longer working for the same firm and Kaan establishing his own, it will be interesting to see how the series will unfold. So whether you find yourself preparing for your next case interview, or miraculously have time on your hands, I would highly recommend watching an episode or two.
Watch House of Lies on Sundays, 10 p.m. on Showtime
Contact Clarisse Peralta at peralta4 ‘at’ stanford.edu.