The whole Lightman group solves the case of terrorist bombings in the D.C. area. Dr. Foster has escalating problems with her marriage. Torres's boyfriend in the Secret Service is in danger.

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Deputy Director Messler
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Bitcher
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Omar Kahn
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Imam Amir Hadad
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Sharif Hamza Ali
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Hasina Kahn
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Nabil Kahn
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The whole Lightman group solves the case of terrorist bombings in the D.C. area. Dr. Foster has escalating problems with her marriage. Torres's boyfriend in the Secret Service is in danger.

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13 May 2009 (USA)  »

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16:9 HD
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Towards the beginning the afghanistan people are referred to as "afghanis". Afghanis is is the currency (money), not the people. See more »

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Who By Fire?
(uncredited)
by Leonard Cohen
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Season 1: Solid example of the formula but needs to build around its strengths to be a more distinctive show
28 March 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Maybe it is just because I am watching more US network television in the past few years but for me it is hard for me to try and keep the many shows that fit the same formula separate in my head. Each weekly episode is a case which is started and solved in that hour, the lead is a distinctive character (usually male) who is an expert of some sort, which perhaps makes up for his social shortcomings, and he has a team made up of various men and women, most of whom are smart and beautiful. As it is in House, so it was in Shark, so it is in The Mentalist, so it was in Life, so it is in Lie to Me. For some reason it is a formula that appears to be in every corner of the networks, which each one looking to do the same again but slightly different to capture the same viewers until eventually fatigue sets in.

This point has not been met yet and perhaps it never will as long as the old shows are retired with the remembrance of "classics" while the old frame has new clothes draped over it to start again. If I sound a little snobby then forgive me because this formulaic television serves a purpose and much of it is good and solidly entertaining. Lie to Me is mostly no exception as it is generally pretty good. The cases each week are interesting enough with plenty of little twists and red-herrings to hold the attention and of course it is all as glossy as sin with lots of the musical cues etc that one expects. In the background the show uses the characters themselves as a narrative thread, which has the potential to be more rewarding than the usual "backdrop" of a specific killer or crime that will be rolled out for season finales etc (a la The Mentalist) but in the short term it feels a little lacking when watching with an eye to formula.

One thing that perhaps the formula lacks as well is the firm presence of a police presence or character. This changes a little towards the end of the season but this role is required to ensure that Lightman and his team have a reason to be involved as they are – heck, even Psych knows that. As it is the weakest episodes are the ones where Lightman either has no business doing what he is doing or how/why he is involved is not clear. The episode on the building collapse is one example but the one with the suicides of the two young Indian women is the worse. While the lack of realism in these shows is usually just best ignored, this is not the same as bemoaning CSI saying that CSI officers would not be leading investigations or talking to suspects because in that example it makes sense in regards the internal logic of the show – but with Lie to Me these episodes don't work within the show's own internal logic.

This is not a deal breaker though and the majority of the episodes are not like this, but the ones that are really struggle to get past that. What the show benefits from is the delivery of the formula elements, specifically the casting of a distinctive Brit in the lead. Although he plays up his accent I think, Roth is enjoyable in the lead. He is best when playing with suspects and doing his thing. While he does have "deeper" material to deliver to develop his character he isn't quite as good here. He is well supported by Williams (who works well with him) and Raymund (who is much better than I thought she would be – at first I assumed she was just the "hot ethnic" cast member). Hines I'm not too bothered about but he does a solid job. The addition of Phifer at the end of the first season bodes well for that as well, although I'm not sure what the point of Sean Patrick Thomas floating around was. Beals offered more than the script allowed her to bring – I didn't think the ex-wife character added to the narrative but she was useful as a narrative device in terms of getting the team involved in cases.

Lie to Me is not brilliant, not is it particularly fresh or startling, but it does hit the formula well enough to be enjoyable in the main. I will watch season 2 at some point but will do so hoping that it can hold the formula points that it is doing well but build on them to become a bit more distinctive and sure of itself so that it can become a good show beyond the formula, rather than just sticking to it as part of a pack.


5 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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