Wednesday, November 24, 2010

'Lie to Me' (Season Two)

Starring Tim Roth, Kelli Williams and Brendan Hines
Created by Samuel Baum

Tim Roth stars as Dr. Cal Lightman.  He specializes in reading facial expressions and body language to determine whether someone is telling truth or lies.  Together with his staff of experts including his best friend and possible love interest Dr. Gillian Foster (Kelli Williams, who I think looks like my friend Lauren), specialist Eli Loker (Brendan Hines) and Ria Torres (Monica Raymund) who has a natural gift for determining deception, Lightman takes on various cases in conjunction with the FBI to solve murders, kidnappings, you name it.

Lightman has to deal with a variety of personal situations in Season Two, not the least of which is making time to raise his 16-year-old daughter Emily (Hayley McFarland), and dealing with his ex-wife Zoe Landau (Jennifer Beals) who is now a defense attorney with her own practice, which sometimes brings her interests into conflict with Lightman's.  Foster is also fresh out of a divorce, and Loker and Torres seem to be growing closer on a personal level, which could endanger their professional relationship.

As a procedural, "Lie to Me" mostly follows a similar plot structure episode after episode.  There's little in the way of ongoing storylines here, and what threads do build over the season often happen in the background.  Still, the episodic nature of "Lie to Me" makes it easy to jump in and out at almost any point.  The show is plot heavy rather than character-focused, which makes it fairly disposable entertainment.

That said, there are a few standout episodes that are quite good.  Probably the best chapter of the entire series is an episode entitled "Beat the Devil," which has Lightman squaring off with a psychopath who is actually able to defeat Lightman's facial readings.  It's a fine episode, bolstered by a creepy performance from Jason Dohring. 

Probably my biggest complaint with "Lie to Me" isn't that it's not the deepest show around, but with Roth's performance.  He's created a strange set of mannerisms for Lightman that vary between being entertainingly quirky and infuriating.  For the most part, it's fine, but at times even the camera has trouble keeping up with him and it can create some nauseating framing situations that make "Lie to Me" literally difficult to watch. 

"Lie to Me" isn't appointment viewing.  But if you've got a couple hours and are in the mood for a little mystery and some quirky science, it's a perfectly fine way to spend your time.  There's fun to be had, but it's pretty basic entertainment.