Story is a lie, and Fox buys it


September's frenzied TV pickup season continues in October with a drama pilot order at Fox.

As part of entertainment president Kevin Reilly and chairman Peter Liguori's aggressive development push during the past few months, the network has greenlighted a pilot with a substantial penalty behind it. The project is an untitled character-driven crime procedural written by playwright Samuel Baum and produced by Imagine TV and 20th Century Fox TV.

The network's production commitment off a pitch effectively took the project off the market. It comes on the heels of several other major production commitments by the Big Four as the nets are bracing for a potential writers strike.

The untitled project centers on a "human lie detector," a deception expert working for law enforcement agencies — as well as private clients — who can read the human face, body and voice to determine people's truthfulness.

It stems from a fascination with the science of facial expression and deception detection through face-reading that Imagine Entertainment's Brian Grazer and Baum have had for years — unbeknown to each other.

"The things we choose to tell the truth about and the things we choose to lie about, that tells you just about everything you need to know about someone," Baum said. "I realized that all great dramas and comedies like 'Tootsie,' 'Meet the Parents' and 'Wedding Crashers' hinge on a lie."

Baum's most recent play, "Object Permanence," also has a lie at the center.

When an agent at CAA, which reps Baum and Imagine, hooked up Baum and Grazer, the premise for the character-driven crime procedural quickly took shape.

"The show is about the difference between the face we put on for the world and what we truly think and feel; it's not simply a criminal investigation but as much an investigation of human nature," Baum said.

While his skills come in handy in his work, the main character's professional knowledge and abilities often complicate his personal life.

"Imagine you went through life always knowing if someone was lying to you," said Imagine TV's David Nevins, who is exec producing the pilot with Grazer and Baum." "It's a great premise for a character and a TV show."

The project's procedural framework and larger-than-life male lead draws similarities to Fox's "House" and is said to be eyed as a potential companion to the hit medical drama.

Baum co-created and exec produced ABC's drama "The Evidence."