Fox // 2009 // 572 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // September 16th, 2009
He sees the truth. It's written all over our faces.
Lie to Me was a midseason replacement series that found it's way to Fox in January of 2009. In a way the program is simply another in a long line of police procedural dramas where crimes get solved in an hour. The twist is that we get movie star Tim Roth (The Incredible Hulk) as an expert in facial expressions and body language who has become a human lie detector. Even though the show goes to great lengths to say it is fictional the series is based on the real-life scientific discoveries of Paul Ekman, an expert in "micro expressions" or reading faces to see concealed emotions. The science behind this is not fully recognized, but it certainly makes the show more fun. I dare anybody to watch this season and try not to read loved ones and strangers for days afterwards.
Tim Roth stars as Dr. Cal Lightman, a deception expert so uncanny at spotting lies he has become a walking talking polygraph. He's built a team to help him out as he consults with law enforcement agencies and investigators. By his side is longtime associate Dr. Gillian Foster (Kelli Williams, The Practice), raw talent Ria Torres (newcomer Monica Raymund), and the wisecracking Eli Loker (Brendan Hines, Deep in the Valley). Together they seem to be able to uncover the truth in a world where everyone lies.
Lie to Me has a fun gimmick, and outside of that plays pretty true to the formula of a modern crime show. We get two cases set up, and through the power of "lie deduction" Dr. Lightman and his team figure out who did it. There is not much deviation nor is there a grand arc to the season meaning the thirteen episodes can stand alone pretty well even out of order. Roth makes for a good quirky leading man, and this series plays to his strengths. He's always somewhat remote and mysterious, and the supporting cast serves to warm him up. His chemistry with Williams works well. Raymund and Hines just seem like walking stereotypes by filling in the roles of the wise Latina and wisecracking young white guy, but they do what they need to do well enough. The high point of the first season is probably the arrival of Jennifer Beals (Flashdance) as Dr. Lightman's equally mysterious ex-wife. Roth and Beals have great chemistry, and they really crank up the quality of the show in their joint episode called "Better Half." It's interesting how the first season seems to get better and better as it rolls along with the last half being stronger than the initial run of shows.
We've seen two releases of Lie to Me's first season: a Blu-Ray edition as well as this DVD set. I'd say the DVD is the way to go since the visual aspects aren't all that impressive or important. The picture is clear enough in the transfers to see the details in the facial expressions each case hinges on. Full surround sound offers a nice enough effect to amp up the drama. We get a smattering of special features including a nice behind the scenes look at the show with all the major players interviewed. Also in the package are some miscellaneous deleted scenes which don't add up to too much. Seems like this series is fit for DVD, and most consumers will be fine with that since the high definition edition doesn't offer much more.
I can't lie: this is simply another show that mimics the CSI and Law & Order phenomenon. It hinges on the idea that one very specialized talented team can crack any case, and do so with the flimsiest of evidence and dicey science. The "tells" these people rely on seem silly and not all that accurate. This is a cookie cutter formula which is only enhanced by Tim Roth, who convinces us to treat it more seriously than it deserves. Take him out of the equation and Lie to Me is an inferior crime investigation show without much going for it. Luckily, the show does have him.
Lie to Me: Season One showcases your typical crime series with a new gimmick and a larger than life screen star to anchor it. It was successful enough to get another year, and you can certainly credit Tim Roth for keeping it interesting enough to earn that honor. This DVD set offers solid transfers, and a pretty good featurette on the concept of the show and how it was made. Not bad, but we will need to see if Roth and his team can sustain a full season of episodes in the 2009-2010 run. There's no lying once your show has to run a full season. Hopefully they will bring back Jennifer Beals, and create some larger arcs for the main characters. Lie to Me is worth checking out for the leading man and the interesting premise.
Guilty of honestly sticking to formula and genuinely not apologizing for it. Thank goodness for Tim Roth.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 572 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site
* Tim Roth Fan Site