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Lie to Me: Pilot (series premiere)

by Brett Love, posted Jan 22nd 2009 8:42AM
Lie To Me - Fox
(S01E01) The mid-season premieres just keep on coming, and FOX has finally let us all have a gander at Lie to Me. Tim Roth is the latest in the increasingly long line of film actors making the jump to the small screen. Here we find him playing Dr. Cal Lightman, the world's leading deception expert, and head of the Lightman Group. Joining him on his journey is Kelli Williams, as Lightman's partner, Dr. Gillian Foster. It's a great match. Roth easily takes to the leading role, and the two of them work very well together.

Watching the premiere, a number of other shows came to mind. Lightman has more than a passing resemblance to Dr. House. To put it simply, he's a jackass. Like House though, he's a jackass that you want to watch. The parking space scene was a great example. Replace Gillian with Wilson and that scene could be dropped right into House.

There is also a little bit of a Bones feel to working the case. Aside from the fact that we have male and female partners, Lightman and Gillian balance each other with their different skill sets. He is certainly the expert in his field, but he needs her perspective to make it all work.

And what really made the pilot work for me, the CSI aspect. At this point, I couldn't tell you how many episodes of the various CSI shows I've seen. But I don't watch any of them regularly anymore, because I'm simply burned out on it. Lie To Me has a very similar case of the week procedural structure, with the viewer playing along trying to piece together the mystery. The intriguing bit though, is no DNA, or fingerprints, or gun shot residue. The reading of expressions and body language puts a new spin on what has become an old form, making it fun again.

That's the bit that hooked me right from the start. Lightman's classroom explanation, showing the various examples, was very good. And it carried on throughout the episode with all the little tips that were passed on. Avoiding eye contact is a myth. Rigid repetition is the sign of a lie. The partial fear expression. It adds a whole new layer to the standard interrogation scene.

Getting to the rest of the team, I need to see more. I'm a little concerned with Eli and his 'radical honesty', because I think that's a gag that could get old quick, but he's likable. Ria, as the natural, seems to have a little more potential out of the gate. She's the fish out of water, which is always good for conflict. You would expect some growing pains learning to work with someone like Lightman.

As to the two cases this week, pretty solid. I completely missed on the murder, and gave myself partial points for the politician. I guessed wrong on the relationship, thinking that James had been involved with his teacher, and that his father had killed the teacher in a confrontation gone bad. With the politician, I guessed daughter, but missed on the adoption and on Weil falling on his sword to protect her. I was thinking more along the lines of daughter from an affair blackmailing him.

There are a couple interesting pieces to take away from those cases. First, was the way the murder wrapped up, with Lightman telling a lie of his own to finally break Jacquelin. It's back to House there, isn't it? Lightman seems to be the kind of guy that needs to get his result, and he's not above using drastic means to do it. That's reinforced with the results of the Weil investigation. Lightman did get his result, but ended up stiffing the client because it was the right thing to do.

Moving forward, there were some other balls set in motion. This is going to be very much a procedural, but we already have some other ongoing stories to start to keep tabs on. What's up with Gillian's husband lying to her? And why does Lightman not mention it, when we saw him stopping to talk to a random woman in the street in a similar situation? For Lightman, there is the ex-wife who he "used to trust." And there is also that line from the FBI agent. "I heard how things ended for you over at the Pentagon." We have to learn more about that, right?

Overall, it was a solid debut that does make things complicated on Wednesday's at 9. With Lost and Criminal Minds also in play, DVRs will be working overtime. For now, Lie To Me is taking over the 'watch live' spot for me, but I am looking forward to the move to 8 simplifying the schedule a bit.

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bjwanlund

For me, the "famous liars" stuff where they show clips of famous liars (like Richard Nixon) actually adds quite a bit of perspective to the show for me (unlike, say, The Mentalist, which RARELY takes itself that seriously, and the funny moments are great on Lie To Me).

Of course, this may turn out to be like the LAST show I got hooked on that came on after American Idol, Canterbury's Law, which got uncerimoniously canned.

But unlike that show, which got too dark too fast, this has a balance of both the dark material and the light material, sort of like Raiders of the Lost Ark, except Indiana Jones is scrounging for lies and not artifacts.

BJ

February 04 2009 at 11:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe

The constant references to real life cases of famous "liars" was blunt and terrible. The characters were not compelling, nor realistic. That's the fault of the clunky dialog that just screams 'pilot'. The gross generalisations about human movement is terrible. The sole interesting aspect of the show was how Lightman is reluctant to tell Gillian about her husband's lies.

I feel like this show would have been better by attaching Lightman to a team of police, as unoriginal as it may have been. Perhaps including real forensics and police work with this behavioural analysis guess work. I mean, who are these people and why are they acting like the police?

Overall, the challenge of the 'Lie to Me' creators set forth by themselves when they put down 'The Mentalist' was entirely too much to bear. Sure, 'The Mentalist' may not be entirely scientific, but at least it's entertaining. This, however, was not engaging in plot or character. This will drop viewers like 'Bionic Woman' if it keeps this up.

January 23 2009 at 5:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
smith

It's not a bad show but I lost interests after the first 20min or so. I like the mentalist and bones, etc more as they don't take themselves so seriously and are much more entertaining, which is why I watch TV in the first place... not to be educated.

January 22 2009 at 5:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bruce

I thought this show was horrendously stupid. First of all, how can you even list other shows it's similar to without mentioning The Mentalist? Now I didn't like the Mentalist at first, either, though the show has grown on me mainly due to Jane's antics. But Jane has shown he's just as adept at being a "human lie detector" as Lightman.

Of course, the difference is the setup. This show has no point - Lightman is not a cop, and does not work for the cops. As someone else mentioned, if the whole plot is that this guy can tell when people are lying better than anyone else, all he has to do is ask the suspects if they did it, and if they say yes or no, he can tell whether they're lying - case closed. Five minute show. They tried to justify the show by having him say something like "it's not important if they're lying, but why they're lying" (which he'll then figure out during the course of the show). No, not really... if we're talking about "did you commit this crime?" all that matters is if they're lying. We can presume that "not going to prison" is the "why" of the lie.

I also have a pet peeve for TV shows that have federal authorities prosecuting and investigating what are clearly state crimes (99% of the time murder is a state crime). Does it really make it more interesting/exciting for the audience to say "the U.S. Attorney wants to put this guy away" instead of the DA (or maybe state AG) or have the FBI do something instead of the police? Maybe it does sound more "important" but the feds only investigate and make arrests for federal crimes. A kid killing his teacher is most definitely a state, not federal, crime, and the U.S. attorney would not be involved. Nitpick? Not really. Bones has nearly always done a great job of explaining why Booth and the FBI have federal jurisdiction. There's no need to intentionally make a mistake just to make something sound more high-stakes, and that jus bugs me. It bugs me when, in Life (a show I love), they call Pelican Bay State Prison, where Charlie Crews did his 12 years, a "maximum security federal prison." It's a state prison and everyone knows that - and Crews was not accused/convicted of a federal crime to be in federal prison anyway.

I predict this show won't last past this season. Tim Roth is a great actor and he's always good... i hope he finds a better show once this one is cancelled. Of course, predicting that Fox will cancel something is no magic trick. But I'm calling it anyway.

January 22 2009 at 4:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bruce's comment
Chris

Just a quick note about your second point. The murder case took place in Washington DC. Unlike other states, DC doesn't have it's own prosecutors. All criminal cases are prosecuted by US Federal Attorneys; so they are actually correct here. I learned this while serving on a grand jury for five weeks. I was actually a little impressed by how all the exterior DC scenes were actually shot in DC (even the airport was actually Dulles airport). I would have figured that they would have shot a couple of exterior shots on location and done the rest of the show in Vancouver (or wherever it is they film it).

January 22 2009 at 7:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
brent

"Are you going to have sex with my daughter?"

January 22 2009 at 2:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gig

One additional note. The suspension of belief required to believe that the TSA hired someone competent is pretty tough to get over.

January 22 2009 at 12:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pingles

I'm afraid I am growing tired of these types of shows.

I just can't stand when they say "Well, he has THIS mannerism so that means he's THIS"

What if they have just ALWAYS had the habit of biting their lip, wringing their hands, etc.?

Sorry, but to play like there are absolutes in human behavior is beyond "pushing the limits" and runs into the realm of ridiculousness.

I enjoy the shows that make light of these types of things (Psych, etc.) but the ones that go full-out dramatic on it lose me.

Woah, I take myself way too seriously!

January 22 2009 at 11:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jon

As much as I enjoyed the show, I kept thinking to myself over and over that Lightman should just ask everyone, "Did you murder the teacher?" That case would have been over in the first 15 minutes, then.

The politician case was definitely more interesting, we'll need more like that in the future. It's too bad that was essentially glossed over for the murder case.

January 22 2009 at 11:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
La-Di-Dah

What I like:
1. The method of closely observing for tells, but more than that, the acting/directing of the characters so that they do give those tells (like the "micro-" expression thingy).
2. Tim Guinee! He was in Strange World on Scifi! And Sweet Land, that incredible film! Yay! (Aside: what I don't get - why can't his wife, the lie/truth detector, tell that her husband is lying. I know she is very trusting/not cynical, but she would have to be practically blind to miss the tells that both her coworkers caught, no?
3. I liked the secondary characters: the radical honesty guy, Torres, Gillian's softer way of handling things, even the case subjects - the body, his parents (who I misread as guilty of something; he thought his dad was beating them or something since he kinda micro-menacing), senator dad! Even Emmaline, who can tell when her dad is not being honest.

What I am iffy about/don't like:
1. The only character I didn't warm up to was the lead (Roth). He is so cynical and can tell people are lying - how in the world can he have a relationship with anyone? Maybe that's why he's divorced, and maybe they are going to reveal more, but (I am going to mention The Mentalist once here; it may be an unfair comparison) I was drawn to Baker's characterization of Jane because, though he can guess his way to catching the bad guy/guess when people are lying, he is so amused by people and 90% of the time doesn't seem to take things seriously, so that I believe when he does have relationships/connect with people. So, I really appreciated the reviewer's comparison to House instead, because this character definitely felt more like House-ish, more disconnected.
One last thing: ladies! He is never going to "leave [his] wife to be with you." Never.

January 22 2009 at 11:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Karen

I liked this show a lot, but I predicted all of the outcomes early in, including them lying about the hanging.

That is ok though, because you don't want the answers coming from too far out in left field.

I definately enjoyed this show and do not watch LOST, so this will be my Wednesday night.

January 22 2009 at 10:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Karen's comment
Gig

I think it was funny that you mentioned knowing about the lie about the hanging. Of course you knew. They just taught you how to tell when someone was telling a lie.

Over all I really liked it and did see a lot of House in the character. Mainly because they both know that people lie all the time and that knowledge doesn't tend to lend itself to looking at others in the best light

The difference is House is indeed a jackass but Lightman isn't. If he was he would tell those around him when they were being lied to. They cemented his unjackassiness in the last scene when he passed up many lies he noticed and told the girl that the married guy was lying.

January 22 2009 at 12:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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