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TV Diary | House Of Lies – “Amsterdam”

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TV Diary | House Of Lies – Episode 1.02 – “Amsterdam” – Original Airdate: 1/15/12

Episode Grade: B+

“Amsterdam” was a very promising second outing that addressed many of the concerns I had with House Of Lies’ pilot episode. First, the case that the Galweather & Stearn team was tasked with this week was back-burnered after the pilot’s sojourn into the world of subprime lending dominated much of the action. This week’s conflict between the divorcing owners of a sports franchise [1] was merely the backdrop instead of the focus, leaving more time for “Amsterdam” to begin fleshing out House Of Lies’ characters. Josh Lawson’s Doug Guggenheim, who I’d said “registered no impression whatsoever” in my initial review and who I referred to as “Faceless Guy” in my notes for the first half of this episode was given a decent amount of material and did a nice job of beginning to show us who the Doug character is. It certainly appears that Doug’s role is to serve as the nerd/target of ridicule character and Lawson plays the note very well, particularly in a scene where the team runs into So You Think You Can Dance host Cat Deeley in the airport in their way to this week’s job. After (rightfully) being ridiculed at the office [2] for dabbing vanilla behind his ears – “Women associate the smell of vanilla with romance.” – superfan Doug actually attracts the attention of Deeley after spilling coffee on himself while making idle chit-chat with her. While helping Doug clean himself up, she mentions she likes the way he smells and gives him an in that, being the loserish guy he is, he’s unable to take advantage of. It’s a nice turn of events and a smart choice by writer Matthew Carnahan to give Doug a win, but make him unable to close thus granting the team more material with which to torment Doug, not the least of which is that he, ahem… soils his pants while Deeley dabs at the coffee on his crotch [3]. Carnahan is also intelligent enough to make Doug the one to uncover the key piece of evidence that leads to the resolution between the warring spouses at the center of the case. “Amsterdam” went a long way towards answering who Doug really is and why he’s an essential part of the show. Meanwhile, as I’d requested Kristen Bell was given more to do this week [4]. Her plotline – which saw a former college classmate attempt to poach her for another consulting firm – allowed the dynamic between her and the guys on the team to develop more as their interest in who she was actually meeting with was of the sibling annoyance/concern kind. We also learn via the headhunter that Marty doesn’t have the greatest interpersonal reputation in the consulting business [5] and ultimately it appears that he’s the one who kills the other firm’s offer in order to keep Jeannie with Galweather, but despite this Jeannie looks pleased that he values her as a member of his team. There’s a nice scene where Marty spins why it would be counterproductive for him to kill her deal as a means of getting her to stay and there’s definitely an interesting dynamic developing between the two of them. Finally, the cross-dressing Roscoe storyline took a much more subdued path this week. Instead of the over-the-top “Roscoe wants to be Sandy in Grease” plotline of last week, here Roscoe is being bullied by some homophobic classmates at school [6] and Marty shows concern while Roscoe shrugs things off. “Amsterdam” – beyond being an entertaining episode – demonstrates that Carnahan has the ability to re-calibrate his storylines when needed, which is definitely a very good sign for House Of Lies’ long-term prospects.

[1] Which was clearly modeled after the divorce of the owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Frank and Jamie McCourt. The McCourts’ divorce also provided fodder for the eighth-season Curb Your Enthusiasm premiere in 2011, “The Divorce.”
[2] Where we get our first glimpse of Richard Schiff (The West Wing) as Skip Galweather, one of the partners of the Galweather & Stearn firm, and Griffin Dunne (An American Werewolf In London) as a mysterious character known only as The Rainmaker.
[3] Clyde on the plane: “Show me with my hand where she patted you.” The scene bears even more fruit later when the team arrives in Phoenix and Clyde and Doug role-play in a funny scene as part of a wager where Clyde demonstrates how he would have sealed the deal with Cat.
[4] Thanks, Matthew Carnahan.
[5] He’s known around the industry as “Marty The Con Man” and the headhunter warns Jeannie that working under him will not lead to the fast track to partner at Galweather that she’s anticipating because he will hold her down.
[6] Clearly a hot-button and important topic in today’s landscape.

Miscellany:
*There’s a pretty slick effect in a scene where Marty is meeting with and pitching a potential client and we get a super close-up of the target to see just how much he’s sweating buckets. Also, the Zack Morris freeze effect was toned down a lot from last week’s pilot.
*On a slight down note, Marty and Monica’s bathroom tryst – they were meeting with clients at the same restaurant – seems to exist simply because House Of Lies is on Showtime.
*Another slight concern is that Marty’s team again expressed concern at getting fired during their job of the week. At this point, I think we get it. Theirs is a high-pressure profession that carries the risk of constant termination. No need to keep beating us over the head with it.
*”Closing is the thing I do that sets me apart from you.”
*”You just had sex. Let me see that dick.”
*”That’s funny because I’m constantly looking for head… now’s not the time.”
*”What’s another word for cunt?” “There are so many, actually.”

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Written by jeremylikestv

January 23, 2012 at 3:13 pm

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