"Now sod off!"
Presenting the human lie detector as prick...
Lie to Me is yet another show about "private investigators" who aren't quite "private investigators."
But while he may not be a private eye, trained psychologist and human lie detector DR. CAL LIGHTMAN, does indeed offer the well-respected if controversial Lightman Group's services in the aid of criminal and civil investigations, often on a confidential basis, on behalf of clients.
That those clients tend toward the rich and powerful, police departments and even, occasionally the FBI itself, doesn't really matter -- in the long run, they're just clients. And not, as the temperamental, impulsive, slightly unhinged and prickly Cal makes abundantly clear often enough, his bosses.
Sure, it's a gimmick, but it's a good one. With his dark and troubled past, Cal is obsessed with the black-and-white world of truth and lies, but it's the all-too-human gray areas that really trip him up, particularly in his personal life. He's not exactly likable, but he is fascinating to watch.
In fact, despite the supporting cast of professional colleagues, assorted family members and occasional love interests, Lie to Me is in many ways a one-man show. Certainly, when he's onscreen it's hard to take your eyes off the squirrelly, bug-eyed Cal, played to twitchy perfection by Tim "Pulp Fiction" Roth. Cal is, of course, the biggest liar of them all: a shrewd, arrogant jackass; a swaggering blowhard on the side of the angels, part trained psychologist and part flim-flam man, using every trick in the book, including body language, facial expressions, hypnosis and drugs, not to mention lying, cheating, stealing, falsifying evidence, insulting and berating suspects to get at the "truth" -- whatever that turns out to be.
To its credit, there’s no woo-woo here, and despite the occasional mawkish descent into Cal's personal life (I really don't want to see his cuddly side), there's much to admire in this flawed but often fascinating show. The ripped-from-the-headlines archival images that frame each segment, a barrage of stills of various celebrities and politicians caught in their own well publicized moments of disgrace and dishonesty, just add to the gritty, off-kilter “there but for God” vibe. Deeper and often darker than you’d expect, Lie to Me is one of the few network shows to plough into the murk of ethics and philosophy and science and deliberately push buttons.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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