Showtime’s Sunday lineup returns Jan. 13 with three
existing series, including “House of Lies,” starring Don Cheadle; and
“Shameless,” featuring William H. Macy. The third, “Californication,” is such a guilty pleasure it might be the
longest-running show on TV that no one has ever publicly admitted to watching.

HouseofliesSimply put, I’ve never been able to get
into any of them in a significant way. I stuck with “Californication”
for awhile before having my senses dulled by its sex-and-money in some new exaggerated setting formula (season six has David Duchovny’s protagonist becoming involved with a rock musical based on his novel). In similar fashion, while I was initially intrigued by “House of Lies'” inside-management-consulting niche and Cheadle’s talents, I found myself rather quickly tiring of its frat-boy mentality and personal subplots.

The second-season “Lies” premiere yields much
of the same, hinging on what Cheadle’s fast-talking closer, Marty, and his associate Jeannie
(Kristen Bell) can piece together from a drunken encounter neither fully remembers.

It’s perfectly fine — the pay-cable equivalent of a Saturday matinee — and perfectly
average, especially coming off a fall that featured a reinvigorated “Dexter” and “Homeland,”
even with my misgivings about the latter.

Showtime has a pair of promising-looking new shows in the wings (including “Ray Donovan,” starring Liev Schreiber; and
“Masters of Sex,” with Michael Sheen), which perhaps makes this troika feel even more like a placeholder until reinforcements can arrive.

Not that I blame Showtime for renewing
them. I’m sure each has a core of passionate loyalists — always valuable in the pay space — and the star quality alone is beneficial from an image standpoint. It’s just despite the ample time they spend fooling around below the belt, it’s hard to get up much enthusiasm. And that’s the truth.