TCA: Showtime's 'House of Lies' More Realistic Than You Think

House of Lies, Showtime

Premieres: Sunday, Jan. 8 at 10:00 p.m. ET

Starring Don Cheadle as Marty, a successful and cutthroat consultant who stops at nothing to get his way, House of Lies stands as one of the cable network’s first series orders under new entertainment topper David Nevins. Kristen Bell and Parks and Recreation's Ben Schwartz co-star.

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"Lies" is based on a "a book written by an angry little man who is bitter and works all of the time," says author Martin Kihn.

To hear Martin Kihn tell it, Showtime’s consultant comedy House of Lies is truer to life than many would like to believe.

On stage at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour with the cast and producers of the series inspired by his book, House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal your Watch and then Tell you the Time, Kihn insisted that the lifestyle portrayed was in fact his reality. Or at least the workplace aspect of it, as his opinion is that little of what a consultant does occurs outside the office.

According to Kihn, a self-described consultant-turned-consultant hater, tell it, the series is "toned down considerably" from the real thing. "This book is a book written by an angry little man who is bitter and works all of the time," he admits, referring to himself. "I think that Matt [Carnahan] and the writers did everyone a big favor by changing it a little bit -- adding things like personal relationships, having sex occasionally. Consultants don’t have sex with anybody, including their spouses, we’re just too tired."

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Kihn says his book was initially conceived as a "Consultant to English dictionary," but evolved into something more in the writing process. It was that language and what the show's producers dub the "absurdity" of the lifestyle that made it ripe for series adaptation, and provocative enough to draw actors like Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell. To draw viewers --some 2 million when Showtime factors in replays-- the show about a team of management consultants has been reframed as a show about big business. 

"I read it [in one night] and I felt this needs to be a show," Carnahan says of the book, noting that the book provided him with a world and a lexicon rather than characters. The result: "I wasn’t strictly adapting a book, I got to cherry pick the fun stuff and create characters out of whole cloth." 

The result dances between comedy and drama, a cable-friendly form that greatly appeals to its actors, which Kihn claims are much like consultants. "The skill is not to solve a business problem or to have the expertise," he quips of his former craft. "The skill is to be able to present oneself as someone who could solve a problem or may potentially have the expertise."

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