23 March 2009

Television Series Review: Lie To Me

On 21 January 2009, FOX introduced a midseason replacement to its Wednesday lineup. It follows Dr. Cal Lightman and his colleagues at The Lightman Group as they try to crack cases based on the lies people tell. They do this by using the Facial Action Coding System that was developed by Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen in 1976.

This show gives a new spin on the "detective show" genre. Instead of scouring crime scenes and following hard facts, they rely on catching people in lies. While not admissible in court, it makes for some interesting drama. And I do like the new spin.

First, the good. The show is anchored by movie actor Tim Roth, who brings a fantastic intensity and egotism to the main character. This man is the shit, he knows it, and he'll make sure everyone else around him knows it. The supporting characters are all fairly good in their own quirky way. The writing is pretty solid; at least it grabs my attention for the duration of the show. And I guess that's all that can be asked of national television.

Now the bad. The show has fallen into its format - two cases tackled per episode. I suppose that offers variety in an hour span but it also doesn't allow much time to flesh out any one case; that will be good for only so long. The writers are also very heavy-handed in pointing out when people are lying. That will make sense here at the beginning of the series, as we viewers are being introduced to this new line of detective work. But they need to learn to be more subtle as the show goes along. Part of the excitement of watching this show will be in allowing the viewers to find the nonverbal clues themselves. And the cases, so far, have been far too easy. I would love to see a case or a character that pushes Dr. Lightman and his group to the edge of their abilities ... a Moriarty to his Holmes ... set in an espionage case, perhaps that could run over several episodes ... someone based on this man perhaps. Finally, and this is a minor gripe but I'm a D.C. native and so such things bug me, the building that houses The Lightman Group's office is not an office at all; but I do understand the attraction to use it as an office building. (By the way, bravo on the clever use of cinematography to mask how massive the building actually is.)

All in all, it's a good series and you should check it out.


Anonymous said...

Was in DC this weekend and I was wondering if what was shown in the series was a real building in DC. So just curious... which building is it that they used?


Robbie Bise said...

The exterior shots of The Lightman Group's building were actually of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. You can see it in the links in the post.