Lie To Me – Season One
Given the somewhat unexpected runaway success that is Fox network’s medical maverick drama House, it’s somewhat surprising that they took as long as they have to render themselves this little clone with a twist. Tim Roth takes the place of Hugh Laurie as the respectable but relatively obscure British actor, who is once again the smartest guy in the room and who once again has a penchant for rubbing everyone he meets up the wrong way.
Amazingly granted the rare privilege of acting for an American audience in his own accent, Roth portrays Dr. Cal Lightman, a behavioral specialist and expert on body language who can instantly tell if a person is lying by observing the most unconscious subtle gestures we cannot help but exude. The truth, the series espouses, is written all over our faces. Kelli Williams plays his senior colleague, Gillian Foster, who occupies what’s now become known as the “Scully role,” tempering the great genius of the hero.
Cal runs a private firm that the police, companies and various agencies can hire to look into certain matters. That the police and said agencies would have their own people for that kind of thing is a given that’s just ignored by the show because making Cal his own boss allows them to sidestep certain issues of protocol and there is nothing a TV writer loves more than a giant hole in the logic to hide in.
Of course, just like House, Cal is both brilliant and a bit of a whack job at the same time. Roth takes a leaf right out of the Pacino book (later Pacino, after he started to lose the discipline) whereby he says little but acts with his entire body – shoulders slumped, riding up on his feet, wildly leaning and generally quipping with a smartass air of superiority.
The show wastes little time in explaining what it is all about with extensive use of photography and plays a little vicarious game with the viewer by bringing high and mighty people down to wallow in the mud with the rest of us. Hitting every cultural reference point imaginable, Roth trains Ria Torres (Monica Raymond), a promising young employee plucked from the ranks of the TSA, slapping up a series of photos of the famous, the guilty and best of all those who are both. George Bush, it seems, looks just like Simon Cowell when he lies, who looks just like the unibomber, who looks just like us.
In terms of plot or drama, there is nothing here that we haven’t seen a hundred times on other police procedurals and the like – prep school murder, rape in the military, student/teacher sexual shenanigans – so the show instead plays up the gimmicks and the laughs. After promising not to embarrass his daughter’s date, Cal greets him at the door casually enquiring if he is planning on having sex with her that night. Similarly, another colleague of Cal, Eli (Brendan Hines) has taken a vow of total honesty and so introduces himself to Ria exclaiming, “Hi, I would very much like to sleep with you.”
To its credit, at no point does the show laud itself over the viewer. These subtle hidden gestures Cal commands such a massive fee for being able to identify are telegraphed so obviously for the benefit of those watching and then played back in slow motion for anyone who still might have missed it. You really couldn’t get lost trying to follow an episode of Lie To Me if you tried.
Ultimately, it’s a gimmick show built on the novelty of play-at-home did they/didn’t they? But these days almost all television is nothing but gimmick and while it’s certainly nothing special, Lie To Me at least has the decency to present itself in the form of a passably entertaining scripted drama. Most shows don’t even bother to do that anymore
Starring: Tim Roth, Kelli Williams, Brendan Hines, Monica Raymund
Created By: Samuel Baum