Posted by Maggie February 5th, 2009 at 10:33am In General
Before calling up yesterday’s excellent episode of Lost, I happened to stumble on to Lie to Me, the new Fox show about the guy (Tim Roth, who I’ve always loved because of Rosenkrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead) who’s some sort of lying scientist (because that exists) who always knows when people are lying. It was clear almost immediately that this show was bad, but I watched the whole thing out of curiosity and a wish to understand exactly why it fails so hard. And it’s not just because it’s a predictable serialized drama about a Persnickety Hero-Genius who’s not as fun as Psych or as quirky as Monk or as hard-assed as House.
A typical scene will have Tim Roth or one of his minions (the cute boy, the white lady, or the black lady – no personalities yet, as far as I can tell) asking someone some questions. The person will respond in an odd way that is obvious to everyone is either suspicious or heartfelt. It is obvious because we are people who watch TV; we know how to tell if a character is lying or prevaricating or believes his nonsense because we know how to interpret dramatic scenes.
Then Tim Roth and one of his minions will go off and discuss the scene that just happened, sometimes even using video footage to remind us what happened literally seconds ago. “She’s got non-symmetrical facial response, so she must be lying,” “He’s self-correcting, which means he’s telling the truth,” etc. The reason this is so moronic is not just because it’s fake science, but because they’re doing the audience’s job — interpreting the scene that just happened and making inferences based on experience with human beings. If the audience has any intelligence at all, the “science” just tells them what they already learned from watching the actors.
At least in something like the Closer, the force of her personality and her interrogating skills make people confess. At least in House, he has specialized knowledge of medicine and tests and treatments to try out. At least on Psych or Monk, they’re noticing things outside of the suspect — the environment, the circumstances, arcane trivia — and they make leaps and connections that, although often guessed by the audience, do require a little bit of genuine insight rather than just looking at people’s faces.
So I don’t care for it. But I won’t lie: Amidst all the repeition and idiocy, Tim Roth does have a certain strange charisma.