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October 1, 2014

Lie to Me - An early look

by Jason Hughes, posted Jan 21st 2009 12:05PM
Lie to Me - Tim Roth as Cal Lightman
If there's one thing we know about the American television landscape, it's that there just aren't enough procedurals on the air. And while CBS has managed to snatch most of them up before anyone else can get their hands on one, it looks like FOX managed to sneak one by the almighty Eye. And as with most crime dramas of this sort, it must differentiate itself from the others by having a little twist all its own. Lie to Me offers that twist in the form of Tim Roth's character, Cal Lightman, who is essentially a human lie detector.

Loosely based on the findings of author and professor of psychology Paul Ekman, FOX was kind enough to send along Ekman's book, Telling Lies, with the pilot so I could follow along and see which of his strategies were used on the show. Yeah, I didn't do that.

There may not be a person alive who's analyzed the art of lying and the liar more than Ekman, so certainly the show is in capable hands with him involved. FOX may just have a successful formula established here and could have another House-sized hit on their hands. Find out for yourself when the pilot drops tonight (1/21/09) at 9/8 Central.

I loved the recruitment technique Lightman used to bring Ria Torres (Monica Raymund) into the fold; pretending to be suspicious at the airport to get her to pull him from the line. Her introduction to Eli Loker, also a part of the team and, apparently, someone who always speaks the truth, was fairly entertaining. I wonder if this is some sort of medical condition or a lifestyle choice that he's actually able to maintain. It's nice to know that he's "fair" in bed, I guess, and that he does, in fact, have a chance with Torres in the sack. Every show needs some sexual tension among the core cast.

Both the A and B stories were intriguing, and both had twists and turns to keep them from following cliche paths. Now I say that as someone who doesn't watch all of these procedurals regularly, so it's quite possible both of these plotlines have been covered extensively on Law & Numb3rs: Without a Criminal NCSI Mentalist.

The A-plot focused on a murdered teacher and the web of lies protecting a high school principal who'd impregnated one of his students in an affair. Believe me, we were nowhere near this when the episode began, so it was an impressive maneuver to get there. The B-plot was just as delightfully unexpected as we went from a congressman having sex with a prostitute to a man trying to reconnect with his daughter and turn her from such a dark and shameful profession. In the end, Lightman even lied to the client (the DNC) to protect the congressman's daughter, allowing him to resign in potential disgrace.

It's not my fault I found myself paying such close attention to the little details during the show. They made me do it. But here's what I noticed:

  • Tim Roth wears glasses normally, or at least while on the set between takes because he had a visible glasses line on the right side of his face coming forward from his ear.
  • Lechero (Robert Wisdom) survived his time in SONA and now he works as a guard at another prison. Cosmic karma maybe?
  • I think the actors are overly aware of their facial expressions on this show, considering its nature, and are therefore overdoing it slightly.
  • The famous photos and video footage of various people matching expressions tied to lies and emotional responses are a nice touch. It helps to resonate truth with the lying philosophy the show is supporting.
  • "Are you going to try and have sex with my daughter tonight?" It must be nice to be able to read faces so well that you can just throw the question out there and you'll get the truth, no matter what they say.
  • It was a nice moment at the end when Cal turned to confront the poor woman who was seeing the married guy after he lied to her about leaving his wife for her. Sometimes you just can't let it go.
It kind of brings up an interesting point that may be addressed in future installments. The notion that Cal is always in "lie detector mode" could prove problematic for his personal life. It may be a major factor in his own failed marriage and could be interesting to see him trying to turn it off. I could imagine plenty of times, for example, where you wouldn't want to know that someone was lying to you if you asked them: "Was that good for you?"

I think this is a solid entry in the world of crime television. I'm not the kind of person who can really watch more than two to three episodes of any of these variations, but considering the ratings map, I'm in the minority on that. Therefore, I can say with confidence that Lie to Me deserves a place in the land of success for being very good at what it does. It's smart and slickly produced with intriguing characters. And it's always fun to catch people in lies.

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gabe

doesn't it air at 9PM/8? not 10/9?

January 21 2009 at 7:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mike

"Are you going to try and have sex with my daughter tonight?"

I'm pretty sure the true answer to that is always the same and no lie detector is necessary.

January 21 2009 at 1:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mike's comment
GL

Agree.

January 21 2009 at 3:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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