Monday, January 23, 2012

HOUSE OF LIES: When Sex Sells A Bad Product

Today, I'll start out by coining a new TV term, The Showtime Problem.  If you've read some of my previous blog posts about Showtime television shows, you will know that I feel this network tries too hard to make you think things about their shows.  They want you to realize how edgy, cool, shocking, lewd, jaw dropping, etc. their shows are.  This kind of work probably began with American Beauty, a movie that was meant to show us how difficult and dysfunctional an upper-middle class lifestyle can be.  I didn't identify with those problems, because it was foreign to me.  However, those people were really dysfunctional, as was proven by many of the characters' actions.  The writer of American Beauty went on to make the unique, extremely edgy, and often shocking Six Feet Under, for HBO.  Much like what one of my audio projects did for my Audio 2 class, at Emerson College, it went on to set the tone for the future of "edgy" television.  In my case, for one of my class projects, I did not shy away from using cuss words or shocking material, in telling an audio story.  The dropped jaws in the class, in addition to being told I was a "sick" man, by my teacher, were pretty satisfying (along with the A I received for the project).  By the end of the class, cuss words, and shocking material, were pretty much the norm.  Six Feet Under really set the tone for the type of television that can't be made on your typical broadcast TV or cable channels.  However, it can be made on any of the pay TV premium channels (HBO, Showtime, Starz).

Showtime has always been thought of as the red-headed stepchild of cable premium channels.  They used to focus on movies, hence the name "Showtime".  Now, they've pretty much given up on the idea of licensing movies from movie studios.  They've decided they want to specialize in original programming.  The problem is that they were a bit late to the party, so they haven't had the same kind of commercial success and critical acclaim as many of the HBO series (who they are clearly trying to compete with).  In my opinion, Nurse Jackie is the best series I have seen on Showtime.  It is the only show I have seen on Showtime that does not look like it tries too hard.  Don't get me wrong, there are definitely some very solid programs that have aired, and are airing on Showtime.  The problem is that when I watch these shows, I can't help but think they are trying very hard to show you why their shows are cool, edgy, shocking, or whatever.  The Pilot of Shameless was a pretty good example of how egregiously they were trying to pound into your head how cool and good the show is.  The latest entry into Showtime's programming is House of Lies (Sundays at 10pm ET), starring the brilliant Don Cheadle.  I am truly at a loss as to how he became involved in such a crappy TV show, unless it has something to do with a mid-life crisis he is trying to deal with.  This show, in particular, has caused me to officially define The Showtime ProblemThe Showtime Problem is when a show tries way too hard to prove its worth as an edgy, or different type of TV show.  Shameless is the gold standard of The Showtime Problem, because it exhibits many of the traits I have described above (teen smoking, teens receiving oral pleasures while a parent is 15 feet away, teenage boy having sex with a grown man, sex in front of a baby, etc.).  Someone over at Showtime really has sex on the brain, because nearly every recently started show I have seen on there (Shameless, Homeland, and House of Lies) has more gratuitous, unnecessary, and disturbing sex than I have seen anywhere else on TV.

In the case of House of Lies, which is what this post is really about, the sexual aspects of the show have completely taken it over.  I want to believe there's a real story behind this show, but everything just seems like it's a frat house nightmare of the management consultant's world.  This is probably less of a post about the show, than it is an indictment of The Showtime Problem.  This is an experimental post, so bear with it.  If it turns out to be entertaining, maybe it will have been worth the read.

For this post, I am going to describe each basic scene, and whether there are any sexual references, of any kind, in each one.  My guess is that 90 to 95 percent of the scenes, in the first two episodes, have at least one sexual reference or intimation.  Any look that can be construed as a person having interest sexually in another will be noted, even if it is not overtly stated in the scene.  For our purposes, I will be considering all of the following as sexually related in nature, no matter how minor they may play out in a scene.

1. Nudity
2. Talking about sex
3. Lewd language (including F words, anatomy, etc.)
4. Gender bending
5. Sex
6. Anything else I can think of when I see it.

I will do this for the first two episodes, so you can see how frequently sex is selling a bad product.  I thought the show had some potential, after the Pilot, but the second episode was just plain terrible, and I'm only giving it one more shot to suck me in.  Do you see what this show has done to me??? 

House of Lies-Episode 1

Scene 1 Sexually Related Content:

Nudity (male/female butts, boobies)/language/gender bending child

Scene 2 Sexually Related Content:

Gender bending child/language

Scene 3 Sexually Related Content:

Language/talking about sex

Scene 4 Sexually Related Content:

Talking about sex

Scene 5 Sexually Related Content:

Nothing of any substance, like the series, but one reference to two guys and them taking their panties off, in reference to not being harsh enough

Scene 6 Sexually Related Content:

Hitting on a receptionist

Scene 7 Sexually Related Content:

Nothing, since it was a business meeting

Scene 8 Sexually Related Content:

Gender bending child problem/language

Scene 9 Sexually Related Content:

Talking about sex

Scene 10 Sexually Related Content:

Nudity (strip club scene)/talking about sex/language/and lap dances

Scene 11 Sexually Related Content:

Euphemistic talking about sex

Scene 12 Sexually Related Content:

Euphemistic talking about sex

Scene 13 Sexually Related Content:

Talking about sex

Scene 14 Sexually Related Content:

Language/talk of gender bending child/talking about sex

Scene 15 Sexually Related Content:

Euphemistic talking about sex/talking about sex

Scene 16 Sexually Related Content:

Talking about sex/female on female sex (mostly inferred and basically clothed)

Scene 17 Sexually Related Content:

Lewd language/euphemistically talking about sex/talking about sex 

Scene 18 Sexually Related Content:

Talking about sex

Scene 19 Sexually Related Content:

Lewd language talking about sex in a professional environment/language/and euphemistic sex references

Scene 20 Sexually Related Content:

Gender bending child problem/clear sexual tension 

Scene 21 Sexually Related Content:

Gender bending child problem/language

Scene 22 Sexually Related Content:

Gender bending child cross dressing performance/nudity (boobies)/sex (mostly clothed)/language

Scene 23 Sexually Related Content:

Nothing

House of Lies-Episode 2 

Scene 1 Sexually Related Content:

Euphemistic talking about sex/language 

Scene 2 Sexually Related Content:

Sex/talking about sex/lewd language/borderline rape/disturbing sex

Scene 3 Sexually Related Content:

Subtle euphemistic language

Scene 4 Sexually Related Content:

Talking about sex/lewd language   

Scene 5 Sexually Related Content:

Gender bending child problem

Scene 6 Sexually Related Content:

Language

Scene 7 Sexually Related Content:

Sexual tension/lewd language/talking about sex

Scene 8 Sexually Related Content:

Subtle what shouldn't be a sexual situation that becomes lewd/lewd language

Scene 9 Sexually Related Content:

Talking about sex/lewd type stuff

Scene 10 Sexually Related Content:

Talking about sex/lewd language

Scene 11 Sexually Related Content:

Talking about sex/lewd language/language

Scene 12 Sexually Related Content:

Subtle sexual talk, but nothing major

Scene 13 Sexually Related Content:

Awkward sexual tension

Scene 14 Sexually Related Content:

Lewd sexual talk/language (whole scene revolves around a character saying how he would get in bed with a woman)

Scene 15 Sexually Related Content:

Nothing

Scene 16 Sexually Related Content:

Language

Scene 17 Sexually Related Content:

Nothing

Scene 18 Sexually Related Content:

Gender bending child/lewd sex talk insult regarding the gender bending child 

As you can see, this series features a lot of sexual content, most of it being in the form of very lewd sexual language.  A lot of what they're saying is pretty shocking language for most movies and TV shows, and is not commonly used anywhere.  They're going for shock value.  If you're into all that kind of language, and the incessant nature of sexuality never being more than a millimeter below the surface, then this show might be for you.  I watched the third episode today, and while it almost showed some potential worth sticking around for, I just can't do it anymore.  If the third episode had been the Pilot, I would have stuck around for maybe two more episodes.  However, since it was the third episode, I just don't want to waste even a second more time on the show.  It definitely had its moments (I did get some good laughs out of it), but those were not enough to keep me interested.  If I hear it has improved significantly, in its run, I may check it out again, but, as of now, I'm checking out.  Thanks for reading. 

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