Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lie to Me, "Secret Santa": Over there

Spoilers for last night's "Lie to Me" (plus some random thoughts on Jason Gedrick) coming up just as soon as I learn how to pronounce "Baltimore" the way the natives do...

"Lie to Me" initially seemed like it was going to be just another crime procedural in a primetime landscape dotted with them. But Sam Baum argued at the start that the show would be a lot more versatile than that, and Shawn Ryan has helped him back up that statement this year. Because there are questions about truth and lies in every walk of life, because Cal Lightman's services are obviously much in demand, and because the government likes what he does, there is really no professional setting - or, in this case, geographic setting - the show can't plausibly visit. There will always be some kind of mystery at the center of things, but the mystery can range from a murder, to who caused a Black Friday riot, to the location of two captured Marines in Afghanistan.

This story was obviously familiar territory for Ryan and the people he brought over from "The Unit," and I liked that we spent very little time on the Jason Gedrick(*) character distrusting Lightman's methods. It's way too easy to try to set up your guy as a genius by putting him together with strawman characters who loudly question his genius and can therefore be easily proven wrong. Gedrick was right to be at least a little suspicious, and he quickly got on board as much as he could under these harrowing circumstances.

(*) Gedrick takes a lot of heat as one of the pre-eminent showkillers of our age (look at his resume and you'll see why), but I've always had a soft spot for the guy. Not only did he star in one of my favorite Brilliant But Canceled shows ever, "EZ Streets," but I spent way, way too many hours in my youth watching scenes like this one from "Iron Eagle" on HBO. (Look closely and you'll spot a young Melora Hardin - Jan from "The Office" - as Gedrick's worried girlfriend.) One of the best moments of my early career was at a CBS press tour event in 1997. Gedrick was there for "EZ Streets" (which wasn't quite dead yet), and Lou Gossett Jr. was there for some TV-movie. I was talking with Gossett and asked if he realized Gedrick was in the building; Gossett's eyes got really wide with delight and he ordered me to lead him to the "EZ Streets" people, where he gave his old "Iron Eagle" co-star the bear hug to end all bear hugs. Later, Gedrick talked to me for a while about how Gossett more or less taught him how to act, because he was pretty terrible at the time (as you can see in the clip). It made all those hours wasted on the movie feel really, really worth it.

The ticking clock intensity of the assignment brought out the best in Tim Roth. And I love the way the writing staff has managed to take a character who should, because of his talents, be the world's biggest cynic, but instead remains oddly, endearingly hopeful about other people's capacity to be true to both themselves and the world at large. The relationship with his daughter helps, and I was relieved that Emily getting to witness the video feed neither hindered nor helped the case; it was just another complication between father and daughter.

We have one more episode next week, and then there will be four left over from this initial order of 13. Fox didn't order more in the spring because they have a lot of mid-season inventory ("24," "Human Target," "Past Life"); at this point, they might still be able to order more episodes for this season, but the more likely scenarios seem to be either renewing the show for next fall (and dealing with the four leftovers somewhere down the road) or not renewing it at all.

I'll be very disappointed if the latter happens. Not that it was ever a bad show, but "Lie to Me" has been much improved this year, and it deserves a longer chance to stick around.

What did everybody else think?


Hatfield said...

Yeah, as far as Fox shows go, this one has become my favorite, with better consistency than Dollhouse and less soap opera than the former #1 House. Roth is great, and less predictable than they could have easily made him.

The way you wrote that last bit, I'm going to assume you don't have any inside information about the show's chances, but how is it doing in the ratings? They've certainly been promoting it like crazy.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Ratings have not been great, particularly with the lead-in from House.

I think Fox was hoping it would be their version of The Mentalist, given the premise, and the fact that they launched it after Idol, and that hasn't happened.

But no, I have no inside info.

Blue said...

I think this is the best one-hour on network TV right now. I enjoy Castle, but it's a little campy. I find myself getting completely wrapped up in this show.

Hatfield said...

Well, that's discouraging, but thanks for the response. I hope it makes it; the only "procedural" I like more is NCIS, and it's nice to have a couple of those in the rotation.

shara says said...

I definitely hope that Lie to Me gets renewed. I think that some attention on the blogs, as you have done the last couple outings, can't hurt - so THANKS for covering this show!!

I agree that this show is avoiding some of the typical cliches (particularly, like you mentioned, with the daughter seeing the feed, with the resistance to his approach being reasonable). I really like the father-daughter relationship, and I really like the way that Cal and Gillian interact - their mutual affection and respect and trust is evident in every scene, but the romantic stuff isn't a soap opera, its just there in the background - two people who care about each other taking tiny steps toward more intimacy (hugs, then shoulder touches, then hand touches, kissing on the cheek, kissing on the cheek but closer to the mouth, etc) while being professional and supportive. Most things about this show are refreshing, and I'm gonna be seriously bummed if it doesn't get extended and/or renewed because its turned into one of my favorite shows. I really look forward to the Monday night combo of Lie to Me and Castle.

word verification: pulimmha

Matt said...

I've yet to watch, but Felicia Day is apparently guesting on one of the remaining episodes in the can, and that'll get me to sample it.

Shawn Anderson said...

according to @ShawnRyanTV, LIE TO ME has indeed been picked up for a back 9 now!

Hatfield said...

That's great news! Hopefully it survives through to next year too

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad they ordered more episodes. It's slowly getting better and better and seems to be getting more comfortable with itself. Or maybe I'm just getting more comfortable with it. In the beginning I was only interested in Cal because the other three were either boring or stuck off on a case that wasn't as interesting as the one Cal was working on. This season they've done a good job of making me care about the rest of them and they've let them grow beyond their initial annoying 2D characteristics.

I like Gedrick and was glad to see him there, especially since he turned out to be a good guy. Whenever I see the name "Jason Gedrick" in the credits I instantly point and say "he did it" and I'm usually right. I was glad to be wrong for a change.

Only gripe: why in the world did they pull that episode a few weeks back and get the whole holiday schedule out of whack? We go from Thanksgiving to Christmas and then, on November 30th, back to some random episode about the WSOP.

shara says said...

Yay! Just saw the back-nine pickup report on Twitter. This show definitely deserves it.

George said...

If they have got a back nine, I think they definitely have to explore Cal's past (I have never met another Briton named Cal). It seems Dr. Lightman has been in his share of sticky situations down the years (Bosnia, Northern Ireland). Be nice if they could flesh out the rest of the characters too, Tim Roth is magnificent, but they can sometimes lean too heavily upon him

This episode was pretty good, I personally think that Cal going to Afghanistan was a bit far fetched, as The Lightman Group is so heavily entwined with the Government it is to be expected that the writers have a large geographical scope but I feel that they aren't using that creative license very well.

It seems as if Cal is the President's first port of call, to make it more realistic, they maybe need a few journalists or Government affiliates higher than Reynolds or whoever that woman was this week.

I suppose I took Emily's reaction for granted rather than expecting it to be a disaster to the mission, ditto with the soldier's subsiding skepticism to Lightman's methods. That's just good dramatic writing and acting.

I'm also glad that they haven't made Lightman like House, it would be easy to make him into some cynical rebel, but it makes him more human(e) if he still tries to see good in people and takes comfort in his close relationships.

Show's on a role at the moment, my fave episode so far was probably the season premiere with the multiple personalities woman, but most of them have been really strong.

Anybody else see a bit of Cox/J.D. in Cal/Loker?

shara says said...

One last thought and I'll hush. I thought that the most interesting thing about last night's episode was the Silence of the Lambs overtones in the interrogation between Lightman and the traitor/CIA guy - the whole quid pro quo thing was really interesting. There were some intense power dynamics going on in those scenes.

Anonymous said...

Loved your comments on Jason Gedrick, EZ Streets was one of my favorite shows too. It was so far ahead of its time I guess it just didn't resonate with everyone.

Kate said...

I think it Lie To Me deserves a full season pick-up.

That said, I preferred last season to this one. I find it's just too over the top this year, from Lightman's behaviour (he's more cop than psychologist) to Foster's clothing (puhleeze, like any psychologist would wear clothing that sexy) to Lightman's relationship with his daughter (greatly suffers in comparison to Castle immediately following), to the obvious Lightman/Foster shipping (but that may be a reaction to how much I hate House/Cuddy). I can really see the Shawn Ryan/The Unit effect on the show.

I liked Jason Gedrick in this episode. I hated the contrivance of Emily watching. Lightman's relationship with her just doesn't ring true to me. Torres deliberately spilling something on Foster to get her attention seemed like the cheapest of TV tricks.

I'll still watch the show but I wish they would do more realistic psychology and less as a showcase for Tim Roth's acting.

amanda said...

I do think the show is more 'testosteroned' this season, to its detriment. I still enjoy it, and go on the ride because of Roth, but it's a bit ridiculous.

Jon88 said...

Hollywood Reporter headline: 'Lie to Me' picked up for full season

(Word verification is Jewish? Ganoug!)

Mo Ryan said...

I agree with Shara that LTM is very interesting when it gives Cal a strong character to go up against. Last season Daniel Sunjata played a really interesting serial killer on the show -- he manipulated Cal in a pretty creative way and it was great to see two very smart people go up against each other and try to predict what the other would do.

Normally I hate serial killer anything, unless that sort of thing is done with real creativity, but that ep last season was quite good and it showed, imho, what LTM was capable of.

But yeah, just wanted to echo that thought -- that when you're not quite sure of the motivations of Cal's possible-liar-of-the-week and they seem to be almost as good at manipulation as he is, things get very interesting indeed.

This is my new Monday Fox show. House -- meh, I've seen it all before. That show seems out of moves (or has only bad/repetitive moves left). Whereas LTM seems to have a lot of potentially rich places to go, as Alan said.

Word verification: omical.