TV REVIEW: Multi-talent Donis Leonard Jr. brings the Showtime comedy's most unique ensemble member to life, and makes House of Lies a must-see.
By Kenny Herzog
Meet TV's most colorful new prima-Donis, Roscoe Kaan.
Very little about the opening scene of House of Lies' premiere unravels as expected. That naked, hungover mess of a woman splayed out beside management-consultant Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle) in some sloppy invocation of John Lennon cradling Yoko Ono? For one, not dead. Futhermore, it's Marty's pill-popping ex-wife and rival consultant, Monica (Dawn Olivieri). And the elementary-aged kid in a purple skirt and tights who accidentally walks in on his parents to announce that breakfast is ready, before literally pirouetting into the kitchen? Their son, Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.).
This could be handled in poor taste, you're thinking. As was I and, presumably, a good share of Lies' audience. But as the unconventional family unit (sans Monica, who was off for a commute of shame) sits down for French Toast with Marty's intellectual-shrink father, Jeremiah (a jarringly against type Glynn Turman, recently of In Treatment), we learn a few things: Roscoe is flamboyant, but not effeminate, and is gunning for the role of Sandy in his school's re-enactment of Grease; Jeremiah is a friend to Roscoe, but also treats the boy and Marty's relationship like a trial study; and Marty raises Roscoe between the margins of his own self-absorption with no exceptional discrimination one way or the other. The latter, we also discover, is because Marty grew up without maternal influence after his mother committed suicide.
Sounds pretty interesting, right? It is. It's the most interesting set of circumstances going for House of Lies, a sharply written and charismatic, but familiar and erratic, exercise in adults behaving badly. Young talent Leonard Jr. has been instructed, at least thus far, to play Roscoe as someone with an almost angelic blindness to the fact that he's "different" from others in his class. He's flashy, but not effeminate. He's basically your average school-age boy, assuring grandpa he's going to kick any competition's ass and excusing himself cause, "I gotta poo." It just so happens his competitive aspiration is, as Marty puts it, "dressing up like a slut and gettting John Travolta to fuck you." (He just says those things to get a rise out of Jeremiah in lieu of being clueless about how to speak with his own son, not to mention flexing patience with Jeremiah rather than confront the issue of his mother's death.)
Marty is, no matter what, fiercely protective, and scolds Roscoe's teacher for trying to deny him the part of Sandy. Yet, he's your typical, Hank Moody-esque slob of a dad when it counts, missing the entirety of Grease so he can bang another student's mother in the parking lot.
Marty and Roscoe are a fascinating father-son pairing. It will be charming and, at times, heartbreaking to see how they come to understand one another rather than twirl politely in each other's personal space with grandpa there for balance. And Roscoe on his own could have more to offer House of Lies and its viewers than the grown-up stereotypes we've all seen before.
ROSCOE RATING: 8/10
HOUSE OF LIES SO FAR RATING: 6/10
THE FACT THAT DONIS LEONARD JR., WHO PLAYS, ROSCOE, SUPPORTS AUTISM-RELATED ARTS CHARITIES BECAUSE HIS YOUNGER BROTHER IS A HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISTIC: 10/10
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