House Of Lies: “Bareback Town”
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House Of Lies: “Bareback Town”

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House Of Lies

“Bareback Town”

Season 1, Episode 7

I was excited about House Of Lies at first. If it succeeded, more the better! If it failed, we’d have a fun train wreck to talk about. I keep falling for this mode of thinking (damn you, Terra Nova). Two things have killed my enjoyment of writing about this show: First, it’s settled into mediocrity, not train wreck, not excellence. Really, I should have seen that coming. Second, I don’t care about the characters. Well, other than Roscoe, who really deserves to be on a better show.

It was reading the description of this episode on the screener site that made me realize this. There were a pile of names: April says this, Marty does this, Monica does that, and not a single one of them made me say “Yes, I care about this character acting in this fashion.” This is not a good sign.

Jeannie’s name was at the center of that description, since encouraging her to engage in lesbianism is a nice little promotional hook. But it also made me realize that of all the characters, she’s the worst. Yeah, worse than Clyde. Clyde’s a total dick, sure, and he certainly drags the show down. But it wouldn’t take much to make him not such a dick. Stop the hookup game, show some vulnerability and personality, and he could be turned around. Jeannie, on the other hand, has been given these moments for growth. And she’s been written to react to them in the dullest way possible.

It’s frustrating to admit this, since residual Veronica Mars feelings have me sympathetic to Kristen Bell in any role. Her charms mask the fact that Jeannie’s an utter waste of space. What do we really know about her? The main component of her personality is that she has cold feet about her engagement. Why? “Daddy issues,” apparently. Other than that, she’s treated as a sort of audience surrogate. House Of Lies is partially built on this idea of allowing us to see inside the lives of the rich and powerful marketing consultants. They have their mechanisms of dealing with the aspects of their lives that most people don’t have to deal with—constant travel, casual sex, never lacking for money, total amorality, etc.—and those may be foreign.

So Jeannie acts as a straight man to this relative insanity. Everything she does is, essentially, a representative of “normality.” This is easiest to see sexually. Jeannie is vanilla. When Clyde is discussing anal sex, she ridicules him for stepping outside of normality. When Marty pushes her to sleep with a female client in this episode, she freaks out in an utterly conventional fashion. She’s deviated from this twice: her brief little fling with the indie rocker that she promptly felt guilty about, and also with the foot fetishist—which she actually enjoyed a little, and then promptly told Marty to never mention again.

Sex may be the most obvious component of her blandness, but it’s not the only one. She also acts as the “moral compass” of the group. That’s most prominent in this episode, dealing with a pharmaceutical company that’s buried poor test results. Only Jeannie cares, which leads to a seemingly dramatic confrontation (that Bell, of course, nails) but one that’s impossible to care about, because, well, I have no expectation that House Of Lies has the ability to demonstrate consequences. Maybe that’s a subtle bit of social satire (the people making the decisions are insulated from the people who might be angry about them) but I suspect it’s purely accidental.

Yeah, some other stuff happens in this episode, but I’m going to treat it with the same disdain as the show’s writers. Marty’s primary motivation this episode? Banging April bareback. It’s even in the title of the episode. And yet the opening scene, where this motivation develops, is so ridiculously contrived and nonsensical that I couldn’t even begin to sympathize with the characters or their motivations. Clyde and Doug? Still playing their stupid game, notable only for Doug being as much of a jerk as Clyde this time.

Any of these things might be tolerable if I’d laughed even once. I mean, I’m off to review American Dad after finishing this, which ain’t exactly The Sopranos or Buffy in terms of strong characterization, but it makes me laugh. House Of Lies is just monumentally dull at this point. 

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