'Lie to Me'

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"Lie to Me" teaches us how to detect lies from the lying liars who tell them. The Fox drama from Imagine TV is fortunate to have a guy with the talents of Tim Roth as a trump card. But even apart from him, the writing and the concept are sufficiently developed from the get-go to create an instantly intriguing entry that has the major benefit of following "American Idol" and should hold on to a good portion of that audience.

What, after all, is "Idol" if not a group of people struggling to convince others of their honest intentions? The only thing that would make "Lie to Me" a better fit were if Roth could try his hand at singing (figuratively if not literally).

The pilot introduces Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman, a genius and an ass of a scientist who has given intensive study time to detecting human lies through facial expressions and body language. His eyes are living lie detectors that sniff out jealousy, scorn, sadness and general laundry-list deceptions. And he uses his skills for good, assisting the feds, government agencies and local cops.

He gets help from psychologist and partner Dr. Gillian Foster (Kelli Williams), quirky researcher Eli Loker (Brendan Hines) and all-around deception detector Ria Torres (Monica Raymund).

In the opener, Lightman and the team analyze the case of a murder victim whose assailant isn't as obvious as it initially seems. The fashion in which they eliminate suspects and finger others often is a bit far-fetched in creator/writer/exec producer Samuel Baum's teleplay. And it's never entirely clear whether the face-reading science being practiced is actual or fictitious (or, as I suspect, a combination of the two). But the stylistic underpinnings alone yield an intriguing mystery.

Of course, the success or failure of "Lie to Me" rests on whether viewers wind up devouring whatever it is that the charismatic Roth serves them. It's too early to tell whether we're destined to embrace his character or dismiss him as the incorrigible jerk he appears at first blush. On the other hand, bastards have been championed successfully by viewers before (witness "House"), so long as there's a core of goodness there someplace.

Moreover, based on execution of the premise alone, it's easy to see the promise as this show breaks from the starting gate. (partialdiff)
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