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Series / Hou$e of Lie$

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Hou$e of Lie$ was a Showtime original series adapted from the nonfiction business book House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time by Martin Kihn. It follows Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle), a partner at a management consulting firm, and his three underlings: Clyde Oberholt (Ben Schwartz), Doug Guggenheim (Josh Lawson), and Jeannie van der Hooven (Kristen Bell). Kaan is a lonely womanizer with a sociopathic ex-wife Monica Talbot (Dawn Olivieri), also a management consultant. Kaan and Talbot have one son together, Roscoe, an exuberant elementary school student with transgender identity issues. Kaan has sole custody, though his father, Jeremiah (Glynn Turman), a retired therapist, lives with them and serves as a co-parent.

Kaan's firm, Galweather & Stearn, is based in Los Angeles, but frequently deploys Kaan & co. to New York City and other US destinations to woo high-profile clients. Through various time-pressured meetings and well-executed PowerPoint presentations, Kaan and his team hoodwink their clients into employing them for outrageous amounts of money. After days of constant lying, the team spends their nights partying and having lots of sex.

As the series progresses, there is less focus on the teams getting clients, and more on character development. The central plot in the first season is a 'merger' (more like a hostile takeover) between Galweather & Stearn and Metro Capital, the client that was wooed by the Pod in the Pilot. Marty's relationships with his subordinates and his dysfunctional family also come into play, with him sacrificing his personal life for his job. The second season had ongoing stories involving a big deal in Las Vegas, along with a lot more interoffice politics. Season 2 also reveals a lot more of the Romance Arc between Jeannie and Marty, which continues until the end of the series.

Season five was the series' last. The finale was notable for being filmed on-location in Cuba, the first US production to be filmed in the country since the Cuban embargo was lifted.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: "Marty Kaan" is a play on "Martin Kihn."
  • All Gays Love Theater: Roscoe tries out for his school’s production of Grease. For the part of “Sandy,” of course.
  • Always Second Best: Gallweather & Stearn to Monica’s firm, Kinsley.
  • As Herself: Cat Deeley in Episode 2.
    • Also, Matt Damon plays a hilariously messed-up version of himself in Season 2's "", which culminates in Damon finally agreeing to raise money for unprivileged kids in conflict after Marty gives him a handjob.
    • Senator John McCain's daughter, Meghan, makes a brief cameo in a Season 4 episode.
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: There’s no discussion of hormone treatments, but Roscoe seems to identify more with the feminine gender. Though as the series progresses, characterization moves more to him being male with more fluid sexual orientation, rather than identity. That is, more "male with effeminate taste, and bisexual orientation".
  • Author Tract: Martin Kihn's indictment of corporate consulting firms makes a full-blown appearance through Marty Kaan's freeze-frame moments.
  • Author Avatar: Marty.
  • Based on a True Story: A fictionalized take on Martin Kihn's time working as a corporate consultant.
  • Big Fancy House: Marty's apartment in LA.
  • Black Comedy Rape: In webisode "Sexual Harassment," Clyde and Doug's boss sexually harasses them to prove a point about the way they treat their female colleagues.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Jeremiah, Marty’s therapist father, who lounges around the apartment in African daisheiki. Marty's brother, Malcolm, publicly drums up support for black causes, which often puts him at odds with the Ivy-League educated financial consultant.
  • Break Them by Talking: Marty's preferred method of closing a deal.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Kaan freeze frames scenes to give his honest opinion and illuminate management jargon.
  • Butt-Monkey: Doug Guggenheim
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Jeannie spends much of season two trying to forget that she loves Marty, while Marty ends season two failing to tell Jeannie his real feelings. This later comes back to bite them in Season 3, where Marty's illegal plan to generate a conflict of interest for his and Jeannie's gain ends up landing him in jail, with Jeannie facing no legal consequences.
  • Celeb Crush: Doug on Cat Deeley of So You Think You Can Dance.
  • The Charmer: Clyde Oberholt, who Ben Schwartz cites as a grown-up version of Jean-Ralphio.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Subverted.
  • Children Are Innocent: Despite his fairly controversial gender issues, Roscoe comes across as this.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: In their presentation to Metro Capital, Marty's team cuts together a string of "fuck yous" from various people on the street.
  • Compensating for Something: Spaulding Winter subverts this by re-directing it towards Marty Kaan.
  • The Confidant: Jeannie is angling to be this for Marty.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The head of Metro Capital in Episode 1.
  • Country Matters: The expletive is thrown around a lot in the series. Lampshaded when Doug texts his wife in a fit of anger, and the phone autocorrects "cunt" to "country."
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Marty’s MO.
  • Discussed Trope: In Episode 3, Marty points out trope-y characters working for IBC (Megalomaniacal CEO, Disgruntled Middle Management, etc.) during an explicating freeze frame.
  • Don't Do This Cool Thing: The show drives home again and again that management consultants are essentially parasitic con men who produce nothing of value... while partying it up on someone else's dime and getting laid several times an episode.
  • Downer Ending: Season 3's ending. One of the firm's clients is gunned down, with no indication toward who committed the crime (though it is heavily implied that his business partner got the job done). Jeannie's attempt at wooing the FBI backfires when they raid the office and discover hers and Marty's illegal plan to give one other internal information about conflicting companies. Nearly all of the firm's major clients back out, and Marty faces prison time, just as he and Jeannie discovered their true feelings for one another.
  • The Dragon: Clyde, as he seems more subservient than Jeannie.
  • Elevator Failure: In webisode "Blackout."
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Kahn and Co. are backstabbing leeches that have eyes only for the payday no matter the cost to their clients. But even they are unsettled when it turns out that one of their clients had their partners brutally murdered in the street.
  • Expy: Each episode’s client. Metro Capital is a stand-in for Goldman Sachs, the Arizona Huskies stand in for the LA Dodgers, etc.
  • The Film of the Book: Based on the book House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time by Martin Kihn.
  • Faux Yay: Clyde acts out his seduction techniques as Doug stands in for the woman.
  • Fetish: Episode 3's Spaulding Winter likes feet. A lot.
  • Freudian Excuse: Jeannie states that Marty's commitment issues are due to his mother's suicide. This later comes to haunt him when his father and his son's high school principal invoke this at a parent-teacher conference.
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: Jeannie's Season Five boyfriend sues her for sexual harassment simply for the seven-figure payout he might receive from the company. Jeannie is not amused.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: April and Greg Norbert's wife in the restaurant bathroom. Also, Monica and her housekeeper experiment for a little while.
  • Hero Worship: Both Clyde and Doug for Marty. While Doug is more a sycophant attempting to earn Marty approval. Clyde genuinely believes that Marty views him as an equal and attempts to earn his respect. In season two when he believes that Marty doesn't see him as an equal. He steals one of Marty's major clients and goes to work for Monica.
  • Hollywood Law: A big driver in season 1 is Marty having a non-compete. Marty's firm is in California, where non-competes are considered against public policy and generally invalid.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: April, the stripper who secures a business dinner for Marty with Greg Norbert of Metro Capital. She's even open to Marty sleeping with other women on the road, though she draws the line at him sleeping with his ex-wife.
  • Ice Queen: Jeannie Van Der Hooven. Until later episodes reveal her vulnerability.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: In Episode 3, Jeannie insists she's "not drunk!" (though nobody asked).
  • In-Series Nickname: Marty's team calls him "Daddy," though they also occasionally use the nickname for naughty clients.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Jeannie went to Columbia, Doug to Harvard, Clyde to Stanford, and Marty to Yale.
  • Kavorka Man: Clyde
  • Lame Comeback: Usually Doug, to Jeannie or Clyde.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Greg Norbert's wife.
    • Mentioned by Monica's season two lover, when she remarks that she's not exactly butch.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Kaan, especially when he has sex with his crazy ex-wife.
  • Lust Object: Jeannie. Kaan even says there’s a “87% chance we’ll sleep together.”
  • Lucky Charms Title: The show, with the dollar signs reflecting its focus on corporate greed.
  • Meaningful Name: Say "Kaan" fast to someone who doesn't know what you're talking about, and asking what word they think said. No prizes if it's "con."
  • Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: Principal Gita
  • Must Have Caffeine: "Is this coffee?"
  • Only Child Syndrome: Roscoe is a bit different from your typical only child. Both Monica and Marty ignore him, leading him to rebel against his parents and grandfather.
  • Only in It for the Money: The consultant team seems to be this, but their methods can sometimes be skewed as altruistic.
  • Opening Narration: Marty does this.
  • Parental Abandonment: Marty's mom committed suicide.
  • The Pornomancer: Marty. There is at least a 60% chance that any woman who appears on the show will have sex with him, often without any apparent effort on his part and sometimes against his wishes. He even did a regression calculation with Doug in the first episode in order to calculate the likelihood of Jeannie sleeping with him.
  • Precision F-Strike: "I'm a Motherfucking Scorpion, That's Why" and "Everything's So Fucking Obvious, I'm Starting to Wonder Why We're Even Having This Conversation." Those are the episode titles.
  • Psycho Ex-Wife: Monica. Taken to epic proportions in Season 3, now that Clyde left Galweather to work with her.
  • Race Lift: Marty Kaan's character was originally written as white, though this was changed pretty quickly since Don Cheadle was cast for the role. Martin Kihn, who wrote the book upon which the series is based, is white.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Kaan’s team.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Roscoe, looked after by his grandpa Jeremiah after his mother left Marty.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Insulting the client is often Marty’s way of establishing dominance.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Almost every episode, from the pilot, which is a critique of the mortgage banking crisis, and the second episode, which is a take on the divorce of the LA Dodgers drama.
  • Romantic False Lead: Everyone Jeannie sleeps with or dates. Marty even gets into strange relationships (such as one with a vegan Instagram model) just to show that he really loves Jeannie.
  • Safe Word: "Amsterdam," used by Monica and Marty, though the former doesn't really realize it. Not that she wants to stop, anyway.
  • Sex with the Ex: Marty cannot stop having sex with Monica.
  • The Sociopath: Monica. Or she's a psychopath. No one can really tell.
  • Team Power Walk: The team power walks frequently.
  • Teeny Weenie: Spaulding Winter...poor guy.
  • That Didn't Happen: In Episode 3, Jeannie and Marty agree that it's better for everyone if they keep their bizarre client hookups between them.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: In webisode "Blackout," when Clyde winds up being comforted in Doug's arms due to his intense claustrophobia.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: "Doug hooked up with a tranny!"
  • Use Your Head: Marty headbutts Greg Norbert during their dinner meeting brawl.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Jeannie calls Marty out all the time but especially notably at the end of "Utah".
    • Skip Galweather gets one, also to Marty, in the end of "Microphallus", where he calls him out on his methods, which damage professional relationships and leave him (Galweather) with a lot of broken bridges to fix, and points out that a lot of other management consultants are able to get solid results without going to such lengths.
  • Where da White Women At?: Marty does sleep with more white women then black, which is somewhat justified since there are far more white women in business finance than others. Lampshaded throughout the series.
  • White-Collar Crime: Kaan’s clients skirt the edges of crime.
    • The death of a worker in Nebraska as a result of Clyde's work is as close as they have come so far to a legitimately criminal act.
    • End of Season 3 sees Marty convicted of an unnamed crime, due to his and Jeannie's plan for unethical backdoor information sharing while servicing competing clients.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Roscoe
  • Work Hard, Play Hard: The team finishes a twelve-hour day of number-crunching with an all-nighter at a strip club.
  • Working with the Ex: Kaan’s firm is Number Two to Monica’s firm’s Number One, so they’re often working in the same places.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Doug, to the point where he ejaculates at the mere touch of a woman’s hand on his crotch.
    • Justified, since it was Cat fucking Deeley.