TCA/Showtime House of Lies - An Adventure in The Unexpected

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Yesterday at Television Critics Association, Showtime trotted out the cast of their latest comedy, House of Lies - a crazed and laugh-out-loud funny send-up of American capitalism.  The series is based on the book House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time, written by Martin Kihn, a former consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton.

“The first episode of the [House of Lies] premiered last Sunday to 1.6 million viewers, a number that is now well past 2 million with our replays,” said David Nevins, Showtime’s President of Entertainment.

The session was spirited, with the actors often teasing each other mercilessly.  The panel began with a question about the show’s raunchy language, prompting lead Don Cheadle (Marty Kaan) to goad Kristen Bell (Jeannie Van Der Hooven) into saying “something naughty.”

She quipped: “I’m f*cking enjoying the hell out of it.”  But then more seriously, Bell said the show is “more provocative than anything I’ve ever done. And sometimes I have a potty mouth, and it’s just, you know, nice to not have those limitations.”

During one exchange, Cheadle dryly commented that his character, Marty, was sleeping with Doug Guggenheim, played by Josh Lawson.

Later, a small cluster of critics admitted they were a bit confused by the remark, that the comment was so deadpan there was an outside (very outside) possibility that it was true.

It’s a big stretch to think that womanizer Marty could land in Doug’s bed.  Yet, at the same time, the series pushes boundaries.  While there are some lines House of Lies won’t cross, a Marty/Doug tryst might not be one of them.  The series is an adventure in the unexpected.  (See the end of this blog post for the relevant section of transcript from the panel.)

In other news from the session, cast member Glynn Turman - who plays Marty’s father, Jeremiah Kaan - spoke passionately about racism and how the show handles the subject matter.  “I’d like to address the question about the racism issue for a second, ” he said. “I want to commend the producers and Showtime for taking on the elephant in the room. This show addresses a racial situation like no other show. It’s not subtle. It’s smack dab in your face… from the very opening scene, it’s smack dab in your face. It has never been presented so up front in the history of television. I’ve been around a long time.”

Per the Cheadle remarks, here’s the relevant section from the transcript.  (Matthew Carnahan is the creator, writer, and executive producer. Ben Schwartz plays Clyde Oberholt.)

The conversation started when Josh Lawson was asked about his character, Doug Guggenheim, the Harvard-trained math geek and butt of many jokes.

LAWSON: well, he’s very good at his job. He’s a wunderkind, really. You know, he’s got a skill set…(Laughter,on the panel)….that is extremely…why is that funny?  (Laughter.)

BEN SCHWARTZ: Because you sound like your character. You sound like your character.

LAWSON ( tongue-in-cheek): Okay. I would say that he I’ve never loved playing a character more than I’ve loved Doug Guggenheim, partly because I believe in, you know, that he will you’ll see his greatness one day.

(Laughter, in the audience)

MATTHEW CARNAHAN: We will, Josh.

JOSH LAWSON: Yeah, we will, won’t we?….. But, you know, what I find that’s great about Doug is that he out of all of them is like a beacon of decency in this shark tank. I’m not saying he’s completely without venom or their teeth.

STEPHEN HOPKINS: How about kinky?

JOSH LAWSON: He’s all that stuff, but he’s also the most corruptible because he’s, in so many ways, the most innocent.

MATTHEW CARNAHAN: He’s a true innocent.

JOSH LAWSON: Yeah. So he’s the obvious choice to be the butt of a joke because he doesn’t fight back the way everyone else does.

DON CHEADLE: And he’s sleeping with Marty.

JOSH LAWSON: That’s true.

BEN SCHWARTZ: No spoiler

DON CHEADLE: Spoiler alert.

BEN SCHWARTZ: Spoiler alert.

(Laughter.)

MARTIN KIHN: He’s the guy who’s good at the Excel model. You need someone like that, and they can almost have no personality. It doesn’t matter.   (Laughter.)  They get away with anything.

MATTHEW CARNAHAN: He’s a bit of a survivor.

JOSH LAWSON: But, of course, what’s a king without a minion.

BEN SCHWARTZ: Oh.

(Laughter.)

JOSH LAWSON: What? Like you asked why he [Marty] keeps him around. God, I would, I mean, he’s a..Doug’s a sycophant in a lot of ways. You know, he really does love…Doug loves Marty.

BEN SCHWARTZ: Yes.

JOSH LAWSON: Wants desperately to be liked by him, and, you know, that sort of a tension is pretty addictive, I think.

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