Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on October 11th, 2011
“Cal Lightman sees the truth. It’s written all over your face. It’s also in your voice, your posture, the words you choose. Give him five minutes and 20 questions and he’ll know whether you went off to Argentina to cheat on your wife, lied about a well-timed stock sale, or murdered a one-night stand.”
I spent quite a few years as a detective. My specialty turned out to be in the interview room. When some of my fellow detectives had a suspect they couldn’t break, they often called me in. It was my job to get the person talking. You see, the company’s insurance recovery from the theft was based on how much I could get the thief to admit they had taken over and above whatever they just got busted for. I have to admit that I rather enjoyed the job. I was able to read the person’s emotions well enough to gauge how my approaches were making the suspect feel. The key was to be able to separate the truth from the deception. Well, it turns out there’s a science behind what I just took as instinct. Apparently, our faces and body language are almost impossible to control, and anyone who could read and translate that language would be nearly impossible to deceive. I don’t recall consciously looking for any of these things. I could just tell. After watching a season of Lie To Me, I’m not so sure that there wasn’t more to it than just instinct.
Cal Lightman (Roth) has spent his life studying human expression. He spent years with primitive cultures, untouched by modern trappings, to hone this art to a very reliable method of detecting deception. He has established a think-tank organization called The Lightman Group. They work with the FBI and private companies and people to consult on deception. Roth’s a bit arrogant and more than a little full of himself. Even his employees question his social skills, but he gets the job done, and he’s passed along this knowledge to his employees and students in the company. His partner is Dr. Gillian Foster (Williams). She’s a certified psychiatrist and an equity partner in the firm. She serves as Lightman’s conscience most of the time. His two brightest students and assistants are Eli Loker (Hines), an ambitious but somewhat naive upstart, and Ria Torres (Raymund). She’s quiet and quite calculating. She used to be a baggage inspector. The team has an FBI liaison since they work often with the agency. Agent Ben Reynolds (Phifer) once filled that bill. This season Reynolds is gone as is the FBI affiliation. Instead Lightman works with a local detective, Sharon Wallowski (Curnen). She’s a bit of a romantic angle as well. Gone also is the lawyer ex-wife. They have a 16-year-old daughter Emily (McFarland), who is at that age of experimentation and self-discovery which drives Lightman completely bonkers. Lightman’s been banned from the entire city of Vegas because of what he can do. For the most part, the group operates out of Washington, D.C.
The show’s strong suit is Roth himself. It’s actually quite surprising to see him doing television, particularly in America. The next strength of the show has to be the sheer variety of cases. Because it’s not strictly a law-enforcement procedural, the cases are more diverse than you normally find in prime time. There are crimes as well as scams and business deals that make up the life-blood of the series. The 40 minutes flies by here. Very entertaining stuff. You don’t even have to have seen the first season. I hadn’t, but I was up to speed in no time at all. There is even an episode that flashes back to how Lightman and Foster first met. You’ll have no trouble at all picking the show up from this point. I suspect you’ll like it enough to seek out the first season anyway, but I don’t think you’ll find it necessary in order to enjoy this season.
The series counts The Shield’s Shawn Ryan as an executive producer. That’s good news for the audience. Ryan always keeps the action going, never fear. There is even a Shield-themed episode that brings several cast members from that show together in one episode. You’ll get: Cathy Ryan, Catherine Dent, Benito Martinez, David Rees Snell, Kenny Johnson and David Marciano. Really good stuff. Melissa George joins the cast for several episodes, first as a suspect the firm proves innocent and later as an investor in the firm. It looked like they were toying with the idea of adding her to the mix but decided to back off of the idea. I rather thought she added something to the chemistry.
And now the bad news.
You get only 13 episodes on 3 discs. That’s because the show has been cancelled. They didn’t appear to see it coming. The last episode is not a series finale in the classic sense of the term. It provides no closure; in fact the opposite is true. It appears to introduce a new character and sets the show on an intended future course that isn’t going to happen. At least there wasn’t a cliffhanger.
Each episode of Lie To Me is presented in its original broadcast 1.78:1 aspect ratio. I still maintain that four episodes on a DVD is at least one too many. There are compression issues, and black levels are only fair. Don’t look for any clear shadow definition. The rest of the picture looks natural enough. I suspect it’s about on par with the broadcast. Flesh tones are particularly accurate, which is good because the series relies heavily on facial close-ups.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 offers a few nice ambient moments, but mostly you’re getting dialog here. It’s all fine and well placed; just don’t look for too much ear candy.
Deleted Scenes on select episodes.
Fox Movie Channel Presents – In Character With Tim Roth: (3:08)
Unfortunately, this little gem never did find the audience it deserved. That means this will be your last chance to catch the team led by Tim Roth in action. I for one rather liked the show and will miss it. Here’s your chance to complete your own collection. Why is this the end? “I’m afraid I don’t have an answer for you there, love.”