Third-episode verdict: House of Lies (Showtime)

The CarusometerA Carusometer rating of 3

In the US: Sundays, 10pm ET/PT, Showtime
In the UK: Acquired by Sky Atlantic

Do you miss pilot movies? I miss pilot movies. Time was, you could set everything up for a TV series at a decent speed in an hour-and-a-half long movie. But you can’t these days – now you have to squeeze everything into an hour, or in the case of House of Lies, half an hour, hope that people like that enough to keep watching, then put everything you left out into the second and third episodes.

Trouble is, that’s going to give people a misleading impression of the show and they might not like all the fireworks you’ve had to add to get their attention.

So, in case you’ve forgotten already, House of Lies is a supposed insight into the world of management consultants that stars Kirsten Bell and Don Cheadle. And its first episode wasn’t very good: neither insightful nor funny, full of sex for sex’s sake, and locker room talk that made it clear that women weren’t welcome.

Since then, the show has simmered down. It’s got us by the balls and but it doesn’t want to knock them for six. It wants to play with them for a while. And it’s all the better for it.

Characters other than Don Cheadle get a look in; the relentless locker-room talk is mocked; some actual management consultancy is performed; the pitches to camera by Cheadle are now quite clever; there’s an ongoing story arc about the firm based on events from the first episode; it does have some really quite nice Machiavellian moments; and Richard Schiff has turned up as corporate Toby from The West Wing to be the boss. It’s actually a much more watchable show.

What we have now is a bunch of four people who spend all their time taking the piss out of each other, while skiving off proper work, trying to get as many freebies as possible and trying to shag everyone – possibly the closest America is ever going to get a British workplace environment. While it’s not really a subtle show, it’s no longer the insult to the intelligence the first episode was and it’s almost enjoyable. Worth a try from about episode two onwards, I reckon.

Carusometer rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Will probably last a season, but not much more