Lie To Me, Honestly?

16 Feb

lie to meWe’ve been watching Lie To Me lately — which I understand is already cancelled, and so my comments here are not exactly topical (I have kids, give me a break) — and in the absence of any more seasons of House to watch, I’d have to say that this is a decent low-Cal version of that.

A show that revolves around catching people out at lying was probably always doomed to have a short shelf-life, because you can only say, ‘Ah, you twitched just there,’ so many times before the audience feels perpetual deja vu. It also tends to patently explain itself to the viewer far too much, and it does have sequences given over entirely to Tim Roth’s exaggerated swagger.

These crimes are fairly widespread in the TV world and I can usually overlook them. But I suspect one of the reasons it got cancelled is also why it features on this site. That is, Season 2 is a terrible liar.

Season 2 seems to think we’re about to accuse it of being boring, and deep down it agrees with this judgement that we’ve not yet made. Flashes of shame in the corners of its eyes give it away. Instead of owning up, the entire season is an exercise in distraction tactics. Each episode therefore tries ludicrously to be The Most Exciting Thing On Television. (Some spoilers to follow) it has so far featured:

  • Multiple Personality Disorder
  • A murder accused taking the office hostage (in which Cal almost gets killed)
  • Cal getting kidnapped by a mobster (in which Cal very nearly gets killed)
  • Cal joins a mission into Afghanistan against the Taliban (in which he comes startlingly close to getting killed)
  • A man trying to blow up the CBD with a tractor full of dynamite (in which Cal might have been killed)
  • A UFO sighting and a psycho serial killer (by whom Cal is partly killed)
  • A car bomb, an apartment bomb, and a confrontation with a UK terrorist bent on revenge against Cal (in which Loker, Foster, and Cal all flirt with being killed)
  • A high-profile court case after the murder of a billionaire (in which Cal inexplicably becomes a cocky, clowny, annoying witness for both sides,  landing in jail for contempt, but still being allowed back into court; he doesn’t nearly get killed, but you wish someone would)
  • Another serial killer, complete with summer camp genesis (in which Cal ducks just in time to avoid being killed)
  • Volatile drug gang leader tries to avenge his dad’s death (in which no-one knows how Cal avoids being killed)

In short, the storylines are just a little over the top. I haven’t seen the last disc of the season or Season 3, but I can only assume that Cal continues to rack up more danger pay than Jack Bauer, an impressive feat for a scientist. I know he’s contracted to the FBI, but about half of those plot threads aren’t even related to FBI cases.

What’s wrong with that?

I’m all for unhealthy levels of excitement, but the assumption seems to be that more explosions and more shouting pistol stand-offs and the occasional suggestion of lesbian experimentation will keep us from noticing that they really have little idea what makes characters interesting. Revealing a bit of back-story is not the same as depth. Insisting on your leading man’s infallibility might preserve his ‘coolness’ but at the expense of his development. Tim Roth does admirably well at being both loveable scamp and sneering smart-alec, but he and his fellow cast-members chase the action and go nowhere.

It’s still a good show, but it promised to be so much better. In their efforts to get Cal Lightman to star in every blockbuster ever, the makers of the show have sacrificed their characters, ironically making them more boring. I can only assume that Season 3 isn’t an improvement, seeing as there isn’t going to be a number 4.


Edit: started the last disc last night, and the characterisation was actually quite good… Also, Cal didn’t come all that close to dying. On the other hand, another cast member got shot three times in the chest.


Stupid-scene highlight

Special mention must also go to an episode about Iraq-war-based post-traumatical stress disorder, in which Foster, the psychologist, is revealed to have invented a functioning virtual reality device for use in therapy. In her spare time. And just for the purposes of this episode. To help this soldier remember, the VR machine replicates the relevant location in Iraq, generates battle-ready enemies, weapons, and vehicles in real time as the soldier barks out his recollections of the battle. Five keys get tickled, and there’s a virtual-reality Warthog plane flying a realistic route overhead, providing cover. Another button, and insurgents appear just in time to rocket-launcher a Hum-Vee.

Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but when you have to imagine the writers saying to you, “OK, for this next scene, pretend you’re a complete idiot and that you believe computers are magic!” It kind of ruins the experience.


One Response to “Lie To Me, Honestly?”

  1. Sonal April 16, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    Ahahahaha. Completely agree with you on the PTSD episode. Damn, I thought exactly the same thing.

    Also, Cal Lightman is insufferable. I liked Loker and Foster the most, which is saying something because I’ve almost always preferred darker characters.

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