Monday, August 24, 2009

Fall Season 2009: Lie To Me

Maybe you heard of the show; it carried itself through its 13 episode freshman season quietly, had a wee bit of help here and there from the FOX promotions department, and tried its best to make up for its mid-season start as a show that suddenly seemed a little like a copycat, and was thoroughly trounced in numbers by The Mentalist anyway.

But it you’ve been keeping an eye on the TV (and really, why wouldn’t you? Have you seen all the delicious pre-season commercials that have started?), you may have noticed that FOX is making more of an effort to support this little show and give it the attention it rightfully deserves. So if you’ve toyed with the idea of catching up or just adding it to the TiVo list this season, or if you’re already a Liar at heart (okay, I tried. Prepare to see Lie To Me Fan written out a lot), here’s what you need to know:

Excels At: Seriously complex personal histories and deeply layered interpersonal relationships. The Mentalist, this show is not! Divorce, suicide, drug addiction, honesty, lies, cheating, spying, abuse – look what we discovered about our main cast in just 13 episodes. Then put all that backstory into their interactions with one another and it is genius.

And I put that first so you got all excited and didn’t back away going boo and boring at the science of the show. The Lightman Group, to which our esteemed group of characters belongs, helps solve crimes through (and pulling directly from Wikipedia here because the words are just so pretty) “reaching the truth through applied psychology: interpreting microexpressions through the Facial Action Coding System, and body language.” While Temperance Brennan may not approve of me referring to it as a “science”, exactly how do I learn how to do this? Imagine the possibilities. And yes, it’s as cool as it sounds. There are set-ups to trap, tests to engage, and voice and video analyses that I’d like to employ on my next date.

Needs Improvement: It can be cookie-cutter as a procedural drama; there are times when the ending is as clear as a smog-free Los Angeles day. And if you don’t know LA, a smog-free day isn’t common, but still, some more focus on the storyline and how it utilizes the science, versus “here’s a cool new psychology trick; how do we tell a story around it?” will be helpful as we move into season two. Also, more humor! There was some nice witty charm to the start of the season that definitely took a turn to angst and drama as the season progressed. I love the heart wrenching, but more personality quirks (give Dr. Foster junk food; she’s hilarious!) and light-hearted moments are on my wish list this season.

Interpersonal Dynamics: I’ll own up to being a Cal Lightman/Gillian Foster fan right now because it’s likely 9/10ths of what I’ll eventually write about this show will focus on them. Come on, he calls her “love”. But really, co-workers who trust each other implicitly, but who also try to keep their personal lives separate from one another because they know there’s something between the two of them that, if acknowledged or acted upon, could destroy their working relationship? Recipe for success!

Then there’s the Cal Lightman/Ria Torres dynamic. Teacher and protégée, but Cal is used to being followed and to being right, and Ria is stubborn and emotional. Some of the tensest moments in the season were the two of them butting heads.

And finally, Ria Torres/Eli Loker. Since he never lies, we know he has a thing for Ria. Will it evolve? Will he be able to climb up from the demotion to unpaid intern for his folly last year?

Even the guest stars – Cal’s ex-wife, his daughter, Gillian’s husband, Mekhi Phifer as an FBI agent – help add to the crazy dynamic between the main characters. Definitely the show’s strength is in its characters, their personalities, and their interactions.

Particularly Notable: I’d choose a Cal/Gillian moment, but when the storyline is tight, everything falls into place beautifully. “Blinded”, the second to last episode in the season, was a wonderfully set up and told story. When they (and we) all realize that Cal has been running a “long con”, and that all of them were pawns in his master strategy, it’s a particularly awesome moment. And it makes the scene between Cal/Gillian, after she’s been attacked, when he tells her that continuing this case isn’t worth it, so much more meaningful.

Pay Attention To: The new show runner. Shawn Ryan (creator and writer of The Unit and The Shield) takes over for season two. Expect more character development, harsh realism, and controversy.

Overall Score: 4 Stars.

Season Two premiers in the U.S. on September 28th.

One response to “Fall Season 2009: Lie To Me”

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