America must really be afraid of putting American actors into lead roles lately. Especially when they’re required to be just a little bit left of centre. We’ve got Hugh Laurie, Damian Lewis, Simon Baker, Jason O’Mara and Toni Collette just to name a few who are prominent right now.
Enter Tim Roth, in Lie to Me which premieres today in the US. Roth plays Dr. Cal Lightman, an expert in reading body language, facial expressions and all manner of deception. He runs a private company housed in an ultra-sleek, contemporary building where he and his team of fellow body-readers solve some of the great mysteries troubling the local law enforcement.
Like Dr. Gregory House, Charlie Crews and Patrick Jane, his methods are just a little bit outside conventions, but that’s okay for a guy who watches on with quiet awe and speaks with a distinct accent (Roth keeps his British accent).
The examples of reading bodily language here are rather nifty. What do we make of those upturned lips, the raised shoulder, a clenched fist, or in maintaining eye contact? How does genuine surprise differ from faked surprise? Apparently one is longer than the other. The visual enhancements utilised within the story make a persuasive case. Still, I think body language was a revelation in 1979 not 2009, surely?
Ironically, as I watched such movements being dissected and analysed I found myself less convinced of the facial expressions of some of the supporting cast. Hey, I didn’t draw attention to phony acting -you did, remember?
Assisting Lightman are a House-like team, with Kelli Williams as his main female sidekick, Brendan Hines as a guy who says what he feels (“I want to sleep with you”) and newest recruit Monica Reymund.
The first episode features two cases. Business must be good. It might have been a little easier to follow if one was a clearer ‘A Plot’ and ‘B Plot’ but they are confidently told.
If it weren’t for the fact that we already have The Mentalist, and still remember Psych or Monk, this would start out stronger than merely being the fourth in a flavour-of-the-month genre. Still, thanks to Roth it is engaging enough so far.
Lie to Me might also have been a good follow on for TEN once House and Life conclude. Do we really have room in one week for the wacky-but-smart-guy in another procedural show?
Time will tell.
Lie to Me premieres 9:30pm Tuesday February 3rd on TEN.