House of Lies and Californication debuted on SHOWTIME this week and showed in their initial episode they are going for the shock. Californication has been doing this for four seasons and shows no signs of changing its attitude in the fifth. House of Lies is a new show but fits right in with the "go for the gross" aspects of Californication.
House of Lies stars Don Cheadle and Kristin Bell, two very competent actors. Cheadle plays Marty Kaan and Bell plays Jeannie van der Hooven. Both work for a Consulting Firm with Kaan being the team chief to which Jeannie is assigned. The other members of this team are Clyde Oberholt (Ben Schwartz) and Doug Guggenheim (Josh Lawson).
The first episode opened with a very naked Marty Kaan in bed with his equally naked ex-wife Monica Talbot (Dawn Olivieri). It seems he and the ex still see each other from time to time even though they are competitors in their field.
Later we meet the entire group as they head off to New York to consult with a Wall Street group. That is when we get to see the team in action. The team works well together even though the actors in the roles of the team have not yet coalesced.
One very annoying aspect of their series is that Marty spends a lot of time breaking the wall of viewing by talking directly to the audience. He explains what certain terms mean or what certain plot points are. This is totally annoying and this device hasn't been used effectively since Ferris Bueller used it all those many years ago.
Too much emphasis is put on the sex lives of the characters and not enough on the storyline being developed. If sex, nudity and gross profanity are what makes a show attractive to you then "House of Lies" should be at the top of your list. If you are seeking a little more depth then you will have to look elsewhere.
The same is true of Californication which stars David Duchovny as Hank Moody. Hank is just a sex dog through and through and this has caused the end of his marriage to Karen (Natascha McElhone). This season of the show takes place a few years after the end of Season 4 and Karen is now married to Richard Bates (Jason Beghe), who strangely enough Hank likes.
As this season kicks off Hank has an offer from rap star Samurai "Sam" Apocalypse (RZA) to write the script for his new movie. This takes Hank into a new world. He meets Sam's protégée' Kali (Meagan Good) to whom he is instantly attracted. Meanwhile his agent Charlie (Evan Handler) has complications in his life that spill over into Hank's.
Duchovny has the character of Hank down to a science. You totally believe he is this man, but that does not make him totally likeable. Hank is a man who wants to do the right thing more times than not, but he has weaknesses that always get in the way.
Both of these shows would be better if their creators didn't seem so obsessed in trying to shock the viewing audience. Like House of Lies, Californication needs more emphasis on story and less on the sex lives of its characters.
House of Lies airs on SHOWTIME, Sunday nights at 10PM and is followed on that station by Californication at 10:30.