On TV: Lie to Me

Movieline Score: 5

For a show called Lie To Me, we'd expect the second season to really ratchet up the falsehoods being batted around Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth), especially when it comes to his personal relationships. Instead, in tonight's second season premiere, all we get is an inconsequential falsehood served by Dr. Lightman's colleague intended to mask her feelings towards her divorce. While the opener is otherwise taking strides to upgrade the show to a memorable, bracing serial, tonight's episode would have benefited from some real world exercising of Dr. Lightman's lie detection skills instead of employing a B-plot that could have just as easily belonged to a series called Fib To Me.

Lightman stumbles upon another case that demands his human lie-detection skills in tonight's second season opener "The Core of It," when a serious young woman confronts him at a book-signing, claiming that she is psychic and has "seen" a murder." After instinctively determining that she's telling the truth, Lightman discovers that she has alternate personalities, or "alters" (how very United States of Tara) including a tough, bustier-donning prostitute and a silent man named RJ. Dr. Gillian Foster (Kelli Williams, in excellent form as the steadfast psychologist), coaxes the psychic woman into a trance in order to glean more information. It's her ingenuity and palpable concern that elevate this episode above an average episode of, say, Cold Case, but it's the coldness of Dr. Lightman and the missing second storyline that keeps it from reaching Law & Order airtightness.

Despite Lightman's lie-reading gimmick, which is his only true idiosyncrasy, the character is an almost lab-crafted, emotionally neutral hybrid of Hugh Laurie's Dr. Gregory House and Gabriel Byrne's Dr. Paul Weston of In Treatment. Lightman's sly dialogue and keen understanding of his clients adds suspense, but there's a limit to it -- after all, how thrilling is it to watch a man who blurts out right away if you're being dishonest? The only personal battle for Lightman in tonight's episode comes when Foster fibs about her post-separation sense of liberation, a feeling that Lightman curiously misses until the end of the episode, even though she's been bounding around the office in an uncharacteristically pink wardrobe.

While tonight's episode winds down with a tense, well-executed conclusion, so far the series hasn't managed House's big feat: a series of compelling B-stories that can overcome the premise's consistent predictability. Lie to Me's fans might sense some steady improvement from its beginnings as a passable midseason replacement, but newcomers won't see much beyond Roth's repeated, furtive glances.


  • John says:

    Hmmm... Interesting take. It should be more like Law & Order and House? To be fair the Foster/Ex-Wife storyline was more of the C story than the B story. While House has some great B-stories, Lie To Me is great because its C storylines are all about the long game. They're not meant to deliver each episode. The fast paced hefty packing of A story thinned out the character interaction/development so that the only enjoyable collection of scenes in the episode came right at the end. Hopefully future episodes will let us dwell more with the characters, instead of around them.