Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell will join the legion of actors looking for work this spring when their Showtime comedy House of Lies ends its 5 season run. The network announced the cancellation today, which leaves just 4 episodes of the biting satire on the schedule; an already recorded season finale airing June 12 will take the cast to Cuba.
The series was inspired by the book House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time written by Martin Kihn. It follows a group of management consultants led by an unscrupulous and immoral Cheadle as Marty Kaan, with Bell, Ben Schwartz, and Josh Lawson as his equally driven colleagues. Following their professional and personal entanglements, the series managed to artfully skewer the characters’ decadence and greed, earning top award nominations each season.
But audiences didn’t follow, and by this year the series ranked 8th among Showtime’s 11 original shows with about 350,000 people tuning in on average. Showtime’s ratings have never been record-breaking; even the highest rated episodes of Dexter, the most-watched original series in Showtime’s history, drew less than 3 million viewers.
What their shows do well is create buzz which can amp up interest among viewers looking for something to watch on-demand. Many of their shows like Homeland, Californication, and Nurse Jackie were critically acclaimed, boasted strong fan-bases, and continue to show up on best-of-VOD lists. The Hollywood Reporter noted that while season 4 of House of Lies drew just 583,000 million first-showing viewers, those numbers were propped by delayed viewing, so it may be another show with a long shelf life.
Showtime’s president seemed pleased with House of Lies performance and it’s place on their roster. In a statement he said, “House of Lies is a comedy that has frequently been ahead of the curve. Over the course of its five seasons, it has tackled such hot-button topics as gender identity, wealth inequality, white privilege, police brutality, interracial relationships, and code-switching with honesty and a biting sense of humor. [Series creator] Matthew Carnahan and Don Cheadle have been dream partners and impeccable leaders. The core cast of Don, Kristen, Ben and Josh are one of the best comedy teams on television. They have brought the series to an incredibly satisfying conclusion with this historic final episode shot in Cuba.”
And despite the sudden end to their gig, Bell and Cheadle actually have little to worry about when it comes to work. Bell was already set to pull double-duty, having signed on for the Ted Danson NBC comedy The Good Place. Her contract stipulated that her schedule had to allow her to also remain on House of Lies.
Cheadle, of course, has been busy on the big screen. His directorial debut Miles Ahead, a biopic about Miles Davis, opened last month, and he’s continued suiting up as War Machine for Marvel’s Avenger movies and Captain America: Civil War. No word yet on what’s next on his schedule.