Review: Lie to Me

According to scientific research, the average person lies three times per ten minutes of conversation. Lies of omission, white lies, whatever sorts of lies; they’re happening that often. Dr. Cal Lightman, the world’s leading deception expert, can tell when people are lying, even if he doesn’t know why, and helps people from all walks of life see through these falsehoods. Or at least he did, until Fox canceled Lie to Me back in 2011. The fate of this show would have likely been different had television streaming services been as prominent as they are today.

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Lie to Me followed The Lightman Group, headed by Dr. Cal Lightman, as they tackled all manners of cases in which detecting otherwise-undetected deceptions meant all the difference. In addition to Tim Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman, the team consisted of Dr. Gillian Foster, Eli Loker, Ria Torres, and Ben Reynolds. It lasted only three seasons, the third of which was cut woefully short, despite its strong viewership rallying behind the show. This raises quite the what-if question: had Lie to Me been airing closer to the present day, with services like Netflix and Hulu eager to pick up shows that conventional networks had abandoned, would it have lasted longer?

The cast acts as a flawless unit, creating an immersive experience where the characters are as believable as real people.

The answer to that is a resounding yes, essentially, given the show’s popularity. Tim Roth’s excellent portrayal of Dr. Cal Lightman adds to the show’s fantastic blend of comedic moments and intense, emotional drama. The cast acts as a flawless unit, creating an immersive experience where the characters are as believable as real people. Because of this, each episode is more effective than the last at getting viewers to cheer for each character as they experience personal victories, as well as feel a shared sadness with them as they experience personal losses.

The science behind the show is fascinating, and a compelling enough reason to watch it as well.

The science behind the show is fascinating, and a compelling enough reason to watch it as well. Dr. Cal Lightman expertly implements the methods and work of the very real, non-fictional Dr. Paul Ekman, and through the fictional stories and believable characters, some very valuable lessons shine through (and, depending on the viewer, a strong desire to learn the science of micro expressions and deception detection).

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With Lie to Me’s combination of comedy, drama, and moments of genuine humanity, it’s a real shame that it hadn’t aired just a few years later. It’s one of many shows that devoted fans would have no doubt liked to have seen continue on beyond the confines of traditional TV networks and show ratings – much like one of Fox’s other prematurely cancelled shows – Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

Ultimately though, there’s only ever going to be speculation on the topic as it doesn’t seem likely that Lie to Me will ever see a Netflix revival for new episodes. That, however, shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying the three brilliantly scripted seasons that do exist.

By Phil Gorski

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