A late addition to the Fox line-up, Lie to Me became quite the success for the network, no doubt due to Tim Roth’s starring role as Dr. Cal Lightman. Despite a cast made up entirely of mostly unknowns, the series went on to gain a fair fanbase during the series short first season (made up of only thirteen episodes). With the second season set to debut Monday’s on Fox (until 24 makes a January return, at least), Lie to Me is set to produce another entertaining season and with such a short first season, newcomers should feel more than welcome to join into the fray.
In this powerful and engaging new drama from Imagine Television, the producers of 24, Tim Roth stars as Dr. Cal Lightman, a deception expert whose uncanny ability to read facial expressions and body language makes him a virtual human polygraph. Joined by psychologist Dr. Gillian Foster, Lightman tackles compelling cases of sabotage, scandal and murder, always uncovering the one thing that matters most—the truth.
Roth was the only reason I was really drawn to watch Lie to Me in the first place. It looked like another attempt to capitalize on the House way of proceedings, with deeply dramatic plots that boast intertwining stories and a rich cast of characters. Unfortunately for Lie to Me the cast list is pretty light, with only a few of the cast members really standing out on their own. Also bad for the show is that the plots that the show comes up with are really quite ordinary and there wasn’t a single surprising story so far in the series.
Part of the problem is in its mission to educate the viewer on what’s going on with the characters in the show, it likes to zoom in and focus on the lies that people are telling. Thus later on when we’re told what they were lying about…guess what, we already knew half the “surprise” twist because of the visual tells. It’s a very difficult series to write, I assume, since all of the “tells” have to be drawn up in such a way that the audience can’t go “wait a minute, I never saw that happen,” while at the same time make it easy to follow. It’s certainly an entertaining premise, but it’s just not always executed in the smoothest fashion.
As predictable as the series is however, it’s still a lot of fun to watch. You kind of have to turn your brain off while watching it lest it be ruined for you, but there are some really solid stories to check out in this first thirteen episode run. I particularly like when the episodes actually focus on Roth’s character; by design a lot of the episodes focus on the supporting cast learning the ropes. We don’t get to see Roth’s character flex his lie-detecting muscles as much as we’d like, but whenever he does pop on the screen it’s akin to Hugh Laurie’s House cracking wise—simple, unadulterated pleasure to witness.
Of course the entire cast isn’t always worth watching, which is another issue with the series. In particular the character of Eli Loker can be a real annoyance; his lie, which spanned a couple episodes, made the character highly unlikeable, yet the show tried to play him off as still a very truthful, enjoyable character. I’m not sure if that’s something we’ll see expanded on in the future or if it was just bad execution of a onetime story, but either way it definitely stuck out as one of the low points of the series.
Overall there isn’t much to discuss with this series first season. It was very basic and despite a really pleasant start, the series soon travelled into territory that was just a tad bit boring. Fortunately with the addition of a government liaison on the show, we may be diving into Bones like territory with more government cooperation and angles to explore there. Hell, the shows both take place in D.C.—a crossover between the two would certainly be interesting.
In any case this first season comes Recommended, as tumultuous as it was. It’s very uneven but at the same time it’s simple, easy fun. Just don’t think about it too much…and try not to pay attention to the same squirmy movements that they make use of (repeatedly) throughout the season.
Fox unleashes Lie to Me’s first season on quite a bare set. Arriving in a standard size three-disc Elite Blu-ray case, the set features a piece of cardboard slapped to the front (why?) that mimics the art underneath. Inside are the usual inserts and the three discs. Menus are simple and easy to navigate. Video arrives in the form of an AVC (@21mbps) encoded transfer that is surprisingly uneven for such a modern show. I’d chalk it up to necessary compression for a TV show, but quite frankly the bitrate is rather high so I’m a bit bewildered by the shows uneven presentation. Don’t get me wrong—it certainly looks good and is better than what I saw broadcast on TV originally, but the occasional edge enhancement and soft imagery just doesn’t feel right for a modern show. Then again it is the shows first season, so I guess you can say they’re just finding their bearings or some such.
Audio comes to us in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that…well, the show is mostly dialogue so you can see where that’s going. Surrounds are rarely used and the subwoofer only kicks in for the shows music or “shocking” sound effect. It’s not a bad mix in the least—it brings to life what the show has to offer with great clarity and detail. There just isn’t much to really get wrapped up in when it comes to the sound mix.
And the extras? Well…they’re like the audio. A Truth About Lies (26 minutes, HD) is our only real look into the production of the series, as there are no commentary tracks included. The only other collection of extras is a smattering of Deleted Scenes (approx. 20 minutes, HD); oddly enough the DVD edition has something called “The Lightman Group Lie Detection Tutorials” that this Blu-ray doesn’t have…but I’m fine with that cause I imagine it’s just clips from the show revealing how people lie.
Overall a rather weak display for a first season, both in terms of the series itself but also with the special features. Surely someone must have wanted to speak up on a commentary track or two…but, alas. Hopefully if the second season becomes the type of show I feel it could be with a little spit and polish, we’ll see a better treatment of the second season. For now this set is worth a Rental only, unless you’re a huge fan of Tim Roth to the point you need to own whatever he does.
Lie to Me – Season One is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.