Thank you, Gods of Television. Just as I'm looking at a possibly dwindling pool of favorite TV with the threats on the life of "Community" and "30 Rock" only finally returning on January 12, 2012, you give me "House of Lies."
And it was good.
Fine, good is not fair. Good is like that meal you get from that place that's on the way home from the bus, it tastes OK but you don't have to walk three blocks out of your way so it gets a boost of convenience. No, "House of Lies" isn't just good. It's the candy with all the additives and artificial food dyes that you know really technically bad for you, but you'll unwrap and savor every last over-packaged piece.
Centering around one of those enigma-filled "management consultants" played by Don Cheadle, we see the two sides of a shallow existence with the nagging sensation that Cheadle's character -- the aptly-named Marty Kaan -- might find some depth, eventually, in spite of his best efforts. It's got all the gratuitous nudity a fan of cable comedy could want (or more than, depending on the fan of cable comedy, but some of us recognize the boob-centric price we must pay for cable fare. Besides, you can always play a game of "Real or Fake" until the plot returns).
In the pilot, "Gods of Dangerous Financial Instruments," we meet Marty, his father, Jeremiah, a retired psychologist played by none other than Col. Taylor from "A Different World," and Marty's son, who is determined to get a role his school's production of "Grease." You can watch the pilot to find out which role.
On the other side, there is his business, packed with team goodness: "Veronica Mars" herself, Kristen Bell; everyone's favorite desperately cool guy Jean-Ralphio from "Parks & Recreation"; and some other actor from Australia named Josh Lawson I don't know but I'm sure is very good.
Morality, however, is nowhere to be found.
An initial episode crammed with information in order to immediately set a number of details along the lines of who, where, what, how, and the all-important why, there was some heavy leaning on telling rather than showing. Yet even that generally basic flaw in storytelling was leveraged into some of the humor within the episode. With everyone firmly established and the stage set, it's unlikely the unrealistic overshares will continue.
"House of Lies" has a touch of the awkward, a range of dark tones, and quick, clever humor. Anyone who can get behind a Nancy Botwin of "Weeds" will find Cheadle's character intriguing, compelling, because there are tiny moments of clarity where he recognizes who he is. The question then becomes whether he cares.
For now, I'm going to go with "no."
As for the show itself, it's a big, shiny, gift of ethical ambiguity, a glimpse into the world of the people who earn their massive wealth as opposed to the interior world of the handed-their-massive-wealth-on-glittery-silver-doilies. We may not feel financially superior, but at least it gives us moral superiority, and that's what really matters. Right? Anyone? No? Well, then you could always watch the show for tips, you know, if you want to branch out into management consulting.