Lie To Me

24 Apr


You know the fabled warning bandied about by particularly gruesome horror movies that suggests you pass if you’ve got a heart condition? Lie To Me should come with a warning too – do not watch if you have a tendency to obsess.

Based on the work of a real life scientist much like Bones, its contemporary at Fox, Lie To Me is a series revolving around the life and work of Dr. Cal Lightman (the always excellent Tim Roth). Like Dr. Temperance Brennan, Lightman is a world famous scientist at the top of his game but unlike her, his problem with science isn’t that it has distanced him from emotion – rather, his long study of body language and, in particular, what he calls “microexpressions” and their significance has left him unnervingly attuned to the feelings of other people.

There’s no such thing as a poker face when he’s in the room and he can always tell when you’re lying – and teach you how to lie better, too, if it comes to that. As expected, this means he’s tremendously successful in his professional life and a big fat pain in his personal life.

Think of it as The Mentalist (fun trivia: Roth’s middle name is Simon) with science instead of fake psychic powers. Patrick Jane would count as a “natural” in the Lightman universe. Unfortunately, this means Lightman and his cohorts are thus at full liberty to explain exactly how they arrived at their conclusion.

You know how a magic trick is never magic once it’s been explained? Well, it turns out the magic trick here is liable to turn into a nervous tic if explained. If you’re easily sucked into a groove as I am, then you may well find yourself obsessively reading the body language of people all around you – look, that guy walking his dog shrugged one shoulder! What does it mean? That woman over there is rubbing the back of her neck! What does she have to hide?

It’s maddening. And also the show’s greatest strength. If it drives you crazy to automatically analyze the hidden motives of strangers after just watching a TV show, then you can imagine what a disaster Lightman’s personal life must be when he can’t simply take the word of his family and friends at face value.

If you’re able to work past that though (and the show seems to be progressively dialing it down as the episodes go on), then Lie To Me is pretty darn entertaining. Providing balance to Roth’s bulldozing Dr. Lightman, for example, is Dr. Jillain Foster (Kelli Williams) whose relationship with Lightman should pay rich dividends sometime in the future. Add Brendan Hines as the dishy young Lightman-in-training and Monica Raymund as a natural (people who have an innate ability to recognize the microexpressions on other people’s faces without the rigorous training folks like Lightman have to undergo) and it’s all set. A whole cast of characters who need to somehow make peace with the fact that they have an awful ability to detect hidden meaning in the faces of everybody they meet, taking part in a procedural that airs right before American Idol.

Plus, you get tons of pictures of famous people captured in the midst of an emotion they’d rather you didn’t see. Which: always fun! Take a shot when you see Bill Clinton lying his ass off.

[thanks to musicthis for the tip]


Posted by on April 24, 2009 in Entertainment, Review, Television


10 responses to “Lie To Me

  1. M

    April 24, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    I JUST read Blink (malcolm Gladwell) and he refers to Ekman’s work – and then I see this post! The series sounds fascinating – what is it on? If HBO, is there a DVD set out yet? Probably not….


  2. DewdropDream

    April 24, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    That sounds very interesting… hope I can watch it!

  3. musicthis

    April 24, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Hey cool… 🙂 Glad to have tipped you over into obsessing about facial tics and random nose scratches (apparently men do this when they are aroused, implying that they’re lying). Occasionally, I’ll get an itch near my nose and wonder.. am I lying to myself..? 😛

    M – It’s a FOX Network show, right along with House and Bones.

  4. sraboneyghose

    April 24, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Sounds very interesting…I hope I can watch it one day…

  5. Amrita

    April 27, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    M – it *just* started. Ten epis in so far. Wednesdays on Fox at 8 EST I think. Right before American Idol anyway.

    Bones and 3D – I think they might show the episodes on their site afterwards if you can’t catch it on TV.

    Musicthis – I’m always glad to know there are other shows out there for me to watch! I just started watching The Unusuals which is like a softer version of Southland, and they’re both pretty darn good. Southland is better imo, but The Unusuals is fun. I’ll check out Leverage… haven’t so much as heard of it until you mentioned it. Do you have a blog btw? Leave a link if you do. 🙂

    • musicthis

      May 4, 2009 at 1:25 am

      Hmm.. it swallowed my comment… Re-posting..

      I’m starting to think I am the *only* one to have watched Leverage. I do remember watching a whole 13-epi season of it… wonder if it was all imagined. No wait.. they claim it’s coming back in the summer (May 25th, to be precise… If you catch the first season online, watch out for the black guy – he plays Hardison, a computer geek, and he plays it beyond hilarious. Love his wit.

      I do have a blog – it’s not about TV shows though I obsess about them beyond what could be considered healthy. I do blog about music though… here’s the link (

      • Amrita

        May 4, 2009 at 1:36 pm

        Comments with links in them are usually held for moderation 🙂 I just began watching Leverage and you’re right, it *is* pretty good. I’m so glad to have new shows to watch now that most of my usuals are ending their seasons.

        • Arti

          July 15, 2009 at 9:26 pm

          Season Premiere of Leverage today… finally! Then, no sign of it for another month. Hmm. Looking forward to a review of the show, if you happen to like it.

  6. Sarai

    May 2, 2009 at 2:19 am

    I LOVE this show!! But wait, if you like it, does that mean it will get canceled? 😉

    • Amrita

      May 4, 2009 at 1:38 pm

      Oh no! Not you too!!! 😛 I don’t know if it’s coming back actually. But Fox loved it enough to play it against Obama’s presser about his 100 days in office, so take that for what its worth. The Mentalist is definitely coming back coz it’s drawing 20 million viewers up against Idol and CBS isn’t going to let go of that action. So there!

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