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Lie to Me: series debut

In midseason 2009, series debut, television, tv on 01/21/2009 at 9:11 am

If this is Wednesday, and Lost has returned, what kinda balls does it take for another network to launch a new series directly opposite? And what chance does that new show hold against the greatest show of all time? Except even I, an islander to the end, realize that not everyone watches the J.J. Abrams series that began as a bunch of plane-crash survivors cast away on an island and has now become a maze of plots that fewer and fewer viewers are still loving.
And so — Mother, are you reading? — for those of you who find Lost too much, Fox has come to your rescue with a bandy little fighter of a show called Lie to Me, which debuts Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Fox and Global.

I was a bit put off by the gimmick of it all. Tim Roth (If I weren’t hovering near 49, I would girlishly write OMG here, but I won’t because I know it would be unbecoming) stars as Dr. Cal Lightman, a “deception expert” who, judging by the sleek offices of The Lightman Group, makes a tidy profit hiring out himself and his colleagues to police agencies and the like to expose liars. Pardon me; I stand corrected by Lightman’s Gal Friday, Dr. Gillian Foster (Kelli Williams): “It’s never whether someone’s lying. It’s why.”
Ah, well then. Entirely different cup of … No. Still a gimmick, one that the Mentalist employs on a weekly basis and of which I tire (as well as Mentalist star Simon Baker’s trying-too-hard smile).
But then a funny thing happened on the way to reaching for the DVD-player god-stick to hit eject/reject of the preview disc: some real character emerged and not just from one character.
Fox might have ordered this series because of its gimmick, which I’m sure Fox hopes will rival the gimmick of The Mentalist’s I-used-to-pretend-to-be-a-psychic-but-I’m-still-observant-enough-that-I-know-when-you’re-lying, but what Fox ended up with is a character that is more in the ballpark of the prickly but brilliant loner House. Lightman is brilliant and divorced and is hovered over by a daughter, briefly introduced, and Lightman’s colleague Foster. The prickliness is not rammed down our throats. He’s playing it close to the chest, but he gets in a good few clever bastard scenes, one of which will especially appeal to those poor Montrealers who engage daily in downtown parking wars.
Now, that’s not to say the gimmickry is not too much. Yeah, I don’t think I need to hear every little bit of deception philosophy. But if I can stomach the abundant unnecessary exposition from other crime shows (Hello? CSI series one and all? Are you listening?), I can tolerate this. And it’s worth the effort.
Also worth sticking around for: the standard goofy colleague is, in this series, a deception expert who always states the truth and so greets the Lightman Group’s new expert highly inappropriately, but it’s kinda fun.
Kelli Williams as the Gal Friday has potential as well. She is Lightman’s interpreter to those who would be put off by his bastardliness, though he frequently circumvents her efforts. There are early, clunky efforts to establish her as quirky (pudding? really?), but that burns off like so much carbon from the… whatever burns off the carbon in your car after it’s been idle for too long.
Now if they can just stop with the repeated diving closeups of the clenching fists and the “micro expressions” of contempt and all that crap and stick to the basics of story and character.
But I’ll still be watching Lost and DVRing this.
— Denise Duguay

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