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TV Diary | House Of Lies – “Microphallus”

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TV Diary | House Of Lies – Episode 1.03 – “Microphallus” – Original Airdate: 1/22/12

Episode Grade: C-

After putting forth an encouraging outing with its second episode, “Amsterdam,” House Of Lies took an alarming step backwards with “Microphallus” by asking the question that no one really wanted answered: What would an episode of House Of Lies look like if Ryan Murphy were writing the show? Now, Murphy himself had nothing to do with “Microphallus” but he might as well have. When you have your two main characters – Don Cheadle’s Marty Kaan and Kristen Bell’s Jeannie Van Der Hooven – mired in a plot where they end up at the house of a married couple where the husband has a tiny, tiny pecker but loves sucking on women’s feet while his wife is into black dudes, you’ve gone way, way off the rails. Backing up, the job of the week in “Microphallus” is for Kaan’s team to advise a soft-drink company on how to proceed with some risky new machinery [1]. While the company’s CEO (played by Lost’s Alan Dale, a long, long way away from The Island here) wants to push forward with the dicey plan, his harried CFO Spalding Winter (John Ross Bowie) advises strongly against proceeding. As Kaan and crew were brought in by the CEO, they’re tasked with trying to convince the company’s board to go ahead despite the CFO’s warnings but, after the CFO’s wife shows up [2] and takes a shine to Marty, he and Jeannie find themselves with an invitation to dinner at the Winter home ostensibly to talk shop. It’s then and there that “Microphallus” takes a sharp left turn into Shit Town. Upon arriving at the Winter home, Marty and Jeannie learn that the Winters have a… uh… unique arrangement whereby Mrs. Winter is free to take Marty up to her bedroom to fuck him silly since her husband has an incredibly small penis while the cuckolded Mr. Winter stays downstairs and gives Jeannie a foot massage that ultimately leads to him sucking on her feet. I wish I was joking. You have no idea how much I wish I was joking but, alas, this is where House Of Lies decided to go. Way to take my faith in “Amsterdam” and then shit all over it, guys. And it’s not like “Microphallus” stopped there as it also included a B-story where Clyde taunted Doug mercilessly over his purported hookup with a transvestite, eventually humiliating him in front of an airplane full of passengers after Doug finally admits to doing… things with the transvestite. Let me get this straight – we have a storyline where Marty’s cross-dressing son is being bullied at school because of who he is, yet at the same time it’s supposed to be funny for Clyde to harass Doug over his interactions with a transvestite? Doesn’t seem like House Of Lies is really learning its own lessons. Even the plotline that had the most potential – the return of Greg Germann’s Greg Norbert, the MetroCapital d-bag we saw in the pilot and whose company is now trying to purchase Galweather & Stearn for their own in-house consulting needs – was marred by the over-the-topness of his lone scene. Having been someone who was affected by mergers and whatnot in the corporate world, there’s no way in hell any acquisition meeting would have gone down like it did here. Absolutely none. It was completely cartoonish. Really, the only thing that saved “Microphallus” from being a complete waste was a late-episode scene between Cheadle and Richard Schiff as his boss, Skip Galweather. After Marty expresses his concern that the personal nature of his relationship with Norbert could affect him adversely [3], Skip notes (while at Marty’s apartment) that Marty hasn’t once invited him over to his home in the time that he’s worked for Skip and that while the consulting business is a relationship business, Marty “carves up and guts” people instead of building relationships with them. When Marty stresses that never having extended an invitation to Skip wasn’t personal, Skip warns, “It’s personal to me. And that’s kind of what matters now, isn’t it?” Without that scene – and the possibilities it creates going forward – “Microphallus” was the type of episode that could completely warn you off of ever wanting to return to House Of Lies. It was that terrible but even in its terribleness, there are still some interesting things [4] happening so I’m willing to chalk this up as a bad outing, but if there are many more like this I doubt that I’m going to want to stick around to see if House Of Lies can right itself.

[1] I’ve mentioned this before but I doubt that anyone’s really watching House Of Lies for the consulting jobs that the show’s central team travels to each week. With both “Microphallus” and “Amsterdam,” they fade more into the background than they did in the pilot, which is a wise move. No one really cares about the ins-and-outs of the divorcing owners of a sports franchise or a battle over machinery within a soft-drink company. It’s what arises out of those situations that’s much more interesting.
[2] Because why wouldn’t the wife of a high-ranking executive randomly show up at his workplace and introduce herself to a consulting team? This should have been an immediate warning sign.
[3] Norbert takes great glee in telling Marty that he’s looking forward to screwing him over in the acquisition as retribution for what happened in the pilot: “Look, I’m gonna bash your head in and then I’m personally gonna fuck your bashed in eye socket. Metaphorically.”
[4] Plus, you know… Kristen Bell and all.

Miscellany:
*One other misstep worth noting – in an episode fraught with small dicks, foot sucking, and transvestite taunting, House Of Lies wanted us to swallow some psychological torture that Marty is enduring as a result of the anniversary of his mother’s death. He has nightmares about her and his psychologist father brings up the fact that he needs to deal with those issues, which is apparent via the episode’s final scene where Marty (along with Clyde) steals a car and goes on what looks to be a nervous-breakdown induced joyride. While this could be a fruitful storyline, introducing it in an episode fraught with frivolity like most of “Microphallus” was maybe wasn’t the best idea in retrospect.
*It also appeared that the recalibration of the Roscoe character lasted all of one episode as he’s here too enthusiastically dancing to a Just Dance-esque video game while asking Marty, “Dad, what do you do if you like a girl and you like a boy?” Please remember, House Of Lies, less is most definitely more with Roscoe.
*”Microphallus” also doubled down on Marty’s freeze effect, this time using it as a telestrator while also moving the camera. This is a bridge too far with this little gimmick.
*While most of the transvestite-bullying storyline fell very flat, Doug asking for more “warm nuts” while they’re discussing whether he hooked up with the cross-dresser in question did elicit a chuckle.
*”Ooh.. That would be a very good idea if it were up and running you dumb shit.”
*”I would let a homeless schizophrenic rub my feet.”
*”That was some weird shit. And my toes are all squishy.”

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Written by jeremylikestv

February 7, 2012 at 11:00 am

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