Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lie to Me, "Moral Waiver": The soldier who cried rape

Quick spoilers for last night's "Lie to Me" -- and why the show has earned That's It For Me! status -- coming up just as soon as I wash my hands...

I'm good. Don't need to see any more.

As I said last week, the "Lie to Me" pilot was relatively well-executed -- Tim Roth is charming, Kelli Williams is a lot more interesting here than she ever was on "The Practice," learning about the various tells is engaging to a point -- but not something that I ever needed to see again. It's a good formula, but not one that's appealing enough for me to stick around. "House," in contrast, is also extremely formulaic, but Hugh Laurie is so funny, and the medical mysteries usually compelling enough within the formula, that I'm still there five seasons in.

I put on episode two to be sure that they'd be sticking to that formula, and they did, and I'm out. Neither case interested me in the slightest, the micro-expressions are already losing their novelty, and while Roth is fine, Lightman isn't colorful enough to elevate the material the way House does.

So unless I hear down the road that the show started deviating significantly from the formula, I don't think I need to stick around.

What did everybody else think?

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Alan, I concur with you exactly. I like Tim Roth, I like the concept, but the two puzzle plot a week format is not enticing enough for me. Other shows have added to this another dimension of an underlying long-term mystery. Maybe Roth can go over and work with the folks at Fringe. It looks like they could use a lie detector in their FBI office.
-Anonymoose

amysusanne said...

I've found that this season I'm watching a lot of average shows just for the actors. This, "Leverage", "Trust Me". Nothing about LTM offends me (it's average, but not overly boring), but once "Life" is back, it will get pushed to the DVR. Since I like Tim Roth so much and enjoy watching him, it'll still get the season pass until it ceases to exist anymore, but I'll be in no hurry to clear it off the hard drive.

My main problem with last night's show and what's probably going to be an ongoing issue with predictability was that I called the entire thing about two seconds into the interview with the girl when I flashed back to the ep of "Veronica Mars" where Leighton Meester busted a pervy teacher on behalf of a friend who wouldn't come forward. It was clear the girl was lying and it was clear that David Anders was a sleazeball, so it wasn't hard to have everything calculated pretty quickly even without calling back to another series, but it still didn't help to have seen it all before. Is it too much to hope that they're focusing less on plot and more on gimmick in these first couple of ease us into being able to pretend like we're able to call the tics and tells on our own without prompting?

jcpdiesel21 said...

I'm definitely with you, Alan. I only watched the pilot and felt that if this was the way that the show was going to be, I didn't need to watch any more. It's not a bad show, but I feel like I've seen what every episode is going to be like.

Maura said...

I've found that this season I'm watching a lot of average shows just for the actors. This, "Leverage", "Trust Me".

The same for me, amysusanne. I was thinking last night that a lot of the cable shows depend entirely on the lead actor to do all the heavy lifting. I think "Leverage" has done a good job of making the other characters fun, but I started watching for Timothy Hutton.

The premise of "Lie to Me" is, I think, a good one, but the show itself is not wowing me. God knows I love crime dramas, and I thought I was capable of watching an endless supply of them. But it's all the same stuff. How much murder and mayhem can one girl stand?

Fred App said...

I found the pilot mildly entertaining, but wondered how they could keep the idea fresh once the novelty wore off. Well, the second episode provided the answer: They can't. So, yeah, I'm good, too.

Bobman said...

Another one to chime in in agreement. It's a decent idea and the characters are fine, but it's only the second episode and I'm bored with the way it plays out. Barring DVR conflicts, I may have it keep the most recent episode on there in case I'm really bored, but I have a feeling they will go unwatched.

Granola Mom said...

I watched for the first time last night, and thought it was okay. I can't see how this idea could keep anyone interested for an entire season (much less multiple seasons), though. How many facial expression analysis can you really set through?

Anonymous said...

Alan, you hit it on the head exactly. I was mildly interested after the pilot and definitely bored after episode two. I watch "House" like an addict and I can say that "Lie to Me" is definitely not in "House's" league.

Tim Roth I like, but he does not bring anything like the soulful honesty and dark undercurrents to his portrayal that Hugh Laurie has delivered flawlessly every week for five years. Also, without the sly wit of Robert Sean Leonard and Lisa Edelstein's sexy intelligence, "Lie to Me" provides nothing sharp or spicy to entice me to stick around.

Also, the everybody lies trope has been brilliantly claimed by "House" and simply comes off here as lazy and second rate.

Hatfield said...

I like it, and since I've decided to leave Lost alone until before the final season, there's no conflict. Not great, but enjoyable.

I also watched Life on Mars last night for the first time, and I was greeted with guest appearances by Johnny Sack, Jimmy Altieri, and Rachel Mencken/Tara Knowles. That kept my interest, and it was pretty entertaining. Anyone else around here still watching?

Ingrid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mjryan said...

You're out after two episodes? Really? Maybe I'm more willing to give this show a chance because I don't have the complexity of Lost eating my brain, but Lie to Me is entertaining enough, although a little rote, for me to at least give it a chance to find its groove. It may continue to be average and predictable and, if so, I'll probably drop it. But, the performances have been good enough (especially Roth and Williams) for me to give them a fair shake. Plus, with two boys, I need all the information I can get about reading lying faces. The teen years will be here before I know it. ;)

Mike F said...

This show is just ok, its better than a lot of the drack that's on tv. It reminds me most of Numbers in terms of the appeal of its gimmick and I gave up on Numbers after a small handful of episodes.

Life on Mars, on the other hand, I really really enjoy. I really find the lead actor engaging, the David Bowie soundtrack endlessly delights me, and the 70s stuff with Chris from the Sopranos and Keital is interesting enough for me. Its a show that has found a way into my heart. Its a better executed, more interesting Journeyman type series. Both are reminiscent of one of my favorite shows ever, Quantum Leap.

Ingrid said...

Darn the typos. See revised comment.

When I saw that this was the second episode and they were already recycling the footage of Clinton expressions, I knew it did not bode well for the longevity of this series on my DVR lineup.

Ariadne said...

Nope. I'm still liking it.

It feels like over half the shows on TV today are detective shows in various forms: CSIs, NCIS, L&Os, Bones... Even House is a detective show in a medical setting. Anything at all different interests me now. This one is different.

I knew the soldier was lying and pretending to be the real rape victim before the half-way mark. But I usually guess Who Done It? on the other shows too. I like the way this show solves the puzzle and I like seeing the gestures they point out in the people in my normal everyday life.

I also like the two female supporting characters (the guy not so much) although maybe I'm biased because they actually dress and act like profesional women instead of hysterical proto call girls.

I appreciate that they're doing real science and not fake science like Fringe or even House, NCIS and CSI to some extent. While I love real sci fi shows like Battlestar Galactica and Stargate, it the fake ones like X-Files I can't watch.

So the show is still in my win column for TV viewing.

Webeh said...

I have to agree with Alan. The premise of the program gets old fast.

But on the other hand, it doesn't help that I think that the entire concept of physical tells is just a bunch of crock. I don't think people are that predictable. You start to hit dangerous territory when you start to "solve" crimes with techniques that aren't scientifically sound.

Anonymous said...

I turned it off after two thirds of the episode. Interesting premise, but basically, it's just another procedural with a twist that lost its novelty quickly. The other issue, of course, is the writers' unfamiliarity with the nature of law enforcement, the military, and private investigation. That lack of knowledge, coupled with the writers inability to resist the urge to make quirky characters with quirky traits, dooms the show for me. Which is too bad, because it was nice to see the lovely Kelli Williams again.

Anonymous said...

You start to hit dangerous territory when you start to "solve" crimes with techniques that aren't scientifically sound.

This is an excellent point. Ultimately, the criminals Tim Roth investigates must be convicted by a reasonable doubt using scientific evidence that has been accepted by a court. I find it difficult to believe that his approach would be generally established enough to support a conviction in the cases in which criminal conduct is at issue

Karen said...

@amysusanne is exactly right: I saw the premise of the "Mars vs Mars" episode of Veronica Mars coming a mile away. And the derivative nature of the episode colored the whole experience for me. It's only the second episode; they shouldn't be recycling others' plots this early.

Tim Roth is good, but he's not as charming as Simon Baker, so give me The Mentalist and put it to bed.

Bobman said...

You start to hit dangerous territory when you start to "solve" crimes with techniques that aren't scientifically sound.

This is an excellent point. Ultimately, the criminals Tim Roth investigates must be convicted by a reasonable doubt using scientific evidence that has been accepted by a court. I find it difficult to believe that his approach would be generally established enough to support a conviction in the cases in which criminal conduct is at issue


To be fair to all of the shows that do this type of "investigating", they're usually careful to have the guilty party admit to their guilt, so the questionable method of investigating is simply used to sniff out the criminal, not to CONVICT said criminal.

But the point is still valid. As is the point about this whole thing being bupkis; while I'm sure there are general features and "tells" that indicate a person is being untruthful, there's no way it's a hard and fast rule. Sometimes when someone scratches their nose it means they have an itchy nose; sometimes when someone puts a hand on the back of their neck it's cuz it's hot out or there's a fly there. Etc, etc.

A. Duncan Carson said...

@Bobman and others:

True, all crime shows that aren't Law & Order (and occasional episodes of Bones where they testify at trials) take liberties with confessions prompted by not necessarily sound evidence.

This can drive me nuts, but the only show in which I find it ridiculous is CBS's Cold Case- they investigate old mysteries, gleam new information almost exclusively from eyewitnesses, and eventually corner someone into confessing with a years-old, unreliable and tangential-at-best piece of circumstantial evidence. All the person would have to do is lawyer up and they'd never even stand trial!

RE: Lie To Me- I like it okay, and if I have any time I might stay with it on Hulu, but mostly I'm pretty meh like the consensus above. I kind of wish they'd limit it to one central mystery and flesh out the characters more, but I don't think the facial ticks gimmick could sustain a single case for a whole hour (and the writers have already proven they can't people seem interesting for that long, even given Roth and Williams to work with).

Plus it's too broadly done in every sense to be memorable- every tick gets hammered to us with unnecessary pop culture images (thanks, I wasn't sure that raised eyebrows meant fear till I saw Sarah Palin's expression), the machines they use all have large, readable buttons, and the characters are all one-note so far (haunted genius, relatable career-woman, douchey honest guy, tough latina rookie).

Anonymous said...

The other issue, of course, is that to the extent Tim Roth & Co. and working for or on behalf of a governmental entity, their actions are restrained by Constitution. They can't enter a home illegally or take the shortcuts that the government could not do since they are overt agents of the government as contractors.

One of the characters mentioned that Roth had spent 20 years trying to become the character that we see in "Lie to Me." I think this show would be much more interesting if it were set earlier in Roth's career, before he had a seemingly endless supply of knowledge, gadgets, and clients. Then, at least, there would be some internal struggle and uncertainty, as well as his own struggle to establish himself and his business enterprise.

(Of course, I find it difficult to believe that so many clients would hire his firm.).

Zach said...

I am vastly amused and entertained by this show.

Other than Kelli Williams' stand-by-itself hair, which I hereby nominate for the Christian Kane / Michael Imperioli Most Irritating Costuming Effect award for Q1 2009.

I am far and away geek enough to be diverted by substantiation and articulation of all the material Simon Baker is allowed free hand to observe, retain, collate and utilize to such fun effect in The Mentalist. Baker of course being the 'natural' with buckets of charisma Tim Roth hasn't got.

I agree that Roth's grumpiness at the nature of truth lies responsibility and humanity is being compressed into way too much shorthand by the writers, and agree the show is probably doomed because of it. The show could be a really terrific riff on the nature of self delusion, self control (and the delusion of self control) and their underpinnings of every element of a working society, whether personal or interpersonal or legal.. so far lots of promise, not so much delivery.

Nevertheless Im on board for the duration. Or at least until I get to see Mr Sex Lies and Videotape sidekick guy get knifed in an alley for his trouble.

Pamela Jaye said...

Could someone please just explain the difference between
Lie to Me
and
Trust Me

I seem to be recording them both, I haven't watched either, and I'm trying to decide if i should even care.

I don't know the premise of either show and the titles are as confusing as Now and Again and Once and Again (two extremely different shows that unfortunately premiered the same year)