Lie to Me: Pilot (series premiere)
(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.