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Photograph: Michael DesmondHouse of Lies' third season premieres Sunday, January 12 at 9pm on Showtime.

House of Lies, Season 3: TV review

Despite some changes, House of Lies still fails to live up to its potential.

Written by
Jessica Johnson

While boasting an incredibly talented cast and impressive production values, House of Lies has never lived up to its promise. Aside from occasional amusing moments, this comedy about a group of management consultants just leaves you needing a shower to wash of the grime of spending time with these awful people. While the new third season could have been an opportunity to re-build the series after splintering of the core ensemble last year, it's more of the same for this band of high-paid sociopaths.

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Despite his master plan being foiled by former colleague Clyde (Ben Schwartz) in last season's finale, Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle) has successfully started his own management consulting firm. He's even re-built in the image of the old pod with three fresh-faced young go-getters. But Marty's still got Jeannie (Kristen Bell) on the brain, plagued by apocalyptic nightmares in which she plays an important role, while making plans to reel her back into his world. Jeannie, meanwhile, is running her own pod back at Galweather & Stearn with Doug (Josh Lawson) and two other newbies following her lead. She's been successful at getting close to Julianne (Bess Armstrong), but changes may be coming that could limit her upward mobility. Elsewhere, Clyde is now working for Monica (Dawn Oliveri), learning up close what a horrendous human being she is, regretting having ever left Marty.

Aside from the unclean feeling felt by entering into this world, House of Lies faces one other great problem: It's just not that funny. There's only one obvious joke in the premiere episode and it's lifted directly from Bell's former show Veronica Mars. While this may have been a feeble attempt at homage (especially given that another Mars alum appears in a later episode), Bell's absence from the scene just makes it come off as plagiarism. The momentum of individual episodes has felt off ever since the show adopted a more serialized format, spreading out their work with clients across an entire season, rather than tackling them in a single episode. When the premiere ends on what appears to be something of a cliffhanger, only to have the second episode pick up days later with one of the characters nowhere to be found, it leaves the viewer feeling like they've missed a bundle of key scenes. It's this bad storytelling that continues to hobble the series.

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