Jul 23, 2009

[TV] Lie to Me - Season 1

Lie to MeCSI changed the TV crime genre by presenting the possibility that people are a lot smarter than you think and are able to appreciate alternative methods of solving crimes. Instead of the straightforward detective-style investigative mystery, CSI was able to help appreciate more the scientific side to police work, even if it wasn't always technically accurate.

The world after CSI certainly developed in odd ways, resulting in all these different variants on the classic TV crime genre. You have shows like Bones that tried to focus on much older evidence and weirder shows like Medium that relied on "psychic" premonitions to solve crimes. The list goes on and on.

Given all the alternative ideas that have come along, it's nice to come across a truly novel idea in terms of the investigative mystery and Fox managed to stumble upon a rather good one.

Lie to Me is the brain child of Samuel Baum and is centered around an independent firm called The Lightman Group. It's run by Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth), the world's leading deception expert who can interpret human "micro-expressions" in order to determine their true feelings about a subject and thus makes for an excellent lie detector. His group works with various government agencies and private individuals in order to ferret out one truth or another.

On the flip side, Lightman and his associates also have to live with the challenge of being able to sort out the difference between truths and lies even in their everyday lives and thus presents an entirely different layer to their daily activities.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 13: (L-R) Actress Ke...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

At first I have to admit the premise seemed a bit cheesy (to say the least) - I mean come on, a series that is centered around a group of people who somehow detect lies whenever you jerk a shoulder or look in a certain direction when talking does seem rather far-fetched. However it does manage to remain on the right side of plausibility and thus will keep you pretty hooked once you settle into things. More so, the series also likes to feature sample images of celebrities and other major public figures when discussing various micro-expressions, thus somehow implying certain things about these people without dwelling too much on that notion. It probably explains the strong reminder at the start of every episode that this is still a fictional series, I guess to avoid waves upon waves of libel cases that may come in.

Also, just being able to detect liars may not seem like much of a plot device, but the writers did a pretty good job at exploiting this to the fullest by carefully rationing out "lessons" on various interpretations of certain micro-expressions in the beginning of the series and then eventually branching out in more and more alternative stories still focused on the detection of lies. From basic kidnapping cases, they try more creative approaches like how does one read the dead facial muscles of a woman who's had Botox or perhaps how does one detect lies in someone who doesn't speak the same language? The progression is gradual enough to help the viewer keep up while at the same time fast enough not to make you lose interest right away.

Character development was a significant area of opportunity here. The pilot episode had them featuring some great potential quirks, character traits and behavioral nuances but then didn't really capitalize on them in the succeeding episodes. They don't really start trying to develop the back stories of these characters in a more significant manner until you're well past the half-way mark in the series, which did make it a little harder to associate with the characters on a more personal level in the beginning.

Despite being "just" a mid-season replacement series, Lie to Me has a lot of potential to go pretty far. Plus with the ever disturbing acting skills of Tim Roth to drive things along, I continue to have high hopes for the series.

Lie to Me's first season gets 4 chocolate pudding cups out of a possible 5.

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