A Human Polygraph in Lie To Me

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Tim Roth played as a human polygraph Dr. Cal Lightman. His gift is determining the criminality of white supremacists, wayward teenagers, Congressional ethics committee chairmen and any and all dubious-seeming Homo sapiens on the basis of shifting body language — "micro-expressions", which has the effect of turning him into a one-man F.B.I-municipal police force-Department of Homeland Security on the series "Lie to Me".

Lightman himself is a fruit basket of stereotype — cocky, infallible, petulant, divorced, burdened by his proficiencies — who has spent decades reading faces and pronouncing certainties: "If your suspect is surprised for more than one second, he is faking it." The show further embeds the network's individualist ideologies with a view that suggests private industry can always go the government suits one better. No line item for the Office of Management and Budget, Lightman operates under the auspices of his own consulting firm, the Washington-based Lightman Group, which the feds reluctantly seek out when they are tripped up, presumably by their own inexorable incompetence.

Lightman has his own minions, and thus his own devotees, the people who work for him in his all-white-and-steel, airy-truth-palace of an office. Chief among them is Gillian Foster (Kelli Williams), a behavioral analyst saddled with the task of speaking in earnest exposition and made not to drink Lightman's Kool-Aid so much as gulp it from the tap.

"Lie to Me" is an invitation to follow her lead, and in some sense it isn't all that easy to decline the offer. There is an appealing cheekiness to the show's insistence on dressing up hunch work as the purview of serious science. And there is some legitimacy to the claim: the series is based on the research of Paul Ekman, a professor of psychology at the University of California, San Francisco, who is a specialist in nonverbal communication and what his publishers call deception strategies.

Created and written by Samuel Baum; directed by Robert Schwentke; Brian Grazer, David Nevins, Steven Maeda and Mr. Baum, executive producers; Dustin Thomason, co-executive producer; Tom Szentgyorgyi, consulting producer; Josh Singer, supervising producer. Produced by Imagine Television in association with 20th Century Fox Television.

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