The average person tells three lies per 10 minutes of conversation.

The average person tells three lies per 10 minutes of conversation.

Of course, this is to be believed only if you buy into the work of world-renowned emotions research and nonverbal communication expert Paul Ekman, a professor of psychology at the University of California, San Francisco.

And plenty of people do. In fact, Ekman’s work is the basis of a new television series premiering next Wednesday on FOX. Lie to Me sounds more like the name of an R&B song than a network television show, but, unluckily for viewers, the program lasts about 10 times as long.

Lie to Me
ultimately disappoints, despite the best efforts of Tim Roth, the British actor best known for roles in Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and The Incredible Hulk (which was, suffice it to say, decidedly not incredible). As always, Roth brings it to the table, proving time and again he is underappreciated as hell.

But sadly, the enticing premise of the show and Roth’s star power fade in contrast to the blindingly obvious: Lie to Me is rigidly formulaic and will, at best, last about two seasons (although Bones is still on the air, defying all the basic principles of entertainment).

Roth plays Cal Lightman, a man whose ability to read the nuanced facial ticks and subtle body language that accompany lies has made him a much sought-after consultant in the world of criminal investigation.

The opening scene has Lightman assisting the FBI by interrogating a white supremacist that has planted a bomb in a predominantly African-American church. Of course the scene is juxtaposed with the stereotypical skeptic cop bitching and moaning about how time’s a wastin’ and Lightman’s going to get jack shit.

Naturally, Lightman makes the FBI’s finest look like a bunch of schmucks by doing what they spent hours attempting to do in a matter of minutes, and with only a sentence uttered on the part of the interrogated. We then slip into the formulaic story structure familiar to most television crime dramas.

A sexy, young teacher (the kind that really only exists in our perverted adolescent fantasies and Temple Terrace, Fla.) is dead and the prime suspect is one of her Mormon students who claims he didn’t do it, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

So Lightman and his optimistic sidekick, Dr. Gillian Foster (Kelli Williams, The Practice), are brought in to interrogate the frightened youth, moving on to investigate the circumstances surrounding the suspect and the victim: friends, families, workplace, school and so on.

Of course, everybody has got something to hide, and no one is safe from the prying, brilliant minds of Lightman, Foster and recent recruit Ria Torres (hottie newcomer Monica Raymund), fresh off her job as a TSA officer, spotting potential terrorists.

Of course, let’s not forget the monumentally important role of lead researcher Eli Loker (Brendan Hines), a good-looking geek of the Adam Brody variety who practices a life philosophy called “radical honesty,” wherein he voices his every thought regardless of its content. So yes, he does express his desire to bone Torres.

Ultimately, the joys of Lie to Me don’t outweigh the formulaic structure of the show. Roth does what he can with a character that is a considerably less miserable Dr. House. Lightman is brilliant, detailed, scruffy, perpetually blazer-clad and always right.

His social graces are shaped by the unspoken dictum that he is the smartest guy in the room, and the one thing keeping him from being a House-like anti-social is his teenage daughter and his grounded partner, Dr. Foster.

Easily the most enjoyable aspect of Lie to Me, other than Roth’s undeniably more likeable House-type character, is the photographs and video footage of various real-life politicians and celebrities betraying their emotions through body language often shown alongside or in tandem with footage of characters exhibiting similar emotions.

Whether it is then-President Bill Clinton shamed by his affair with Monica Lewinsky, or President George W. Bush contemptuously sneering from a podium, it’s all the more enjoyable to see real life pushers and movers letting their discomfort show.

Lie to Me has got a great premise. I love the character of Lightman, even if he has only so far demonstrated that he is a nicer Dr. House. But, the show has got to make some huge strides in terms of originality if it’s going to come anywhere near to what it aspires to be.

Given the potentially limited concept (I see the producers and writers having a hard time turning this into a multiple-season hit), I could see Lie to Me working better as a feature film. Of course it’s viewer volume that will determine Lie to Me‘s fate, and when it comes to television the truth is not, as the show’s tagline claims, written all over our faces. Rather, it’s written in the ratings.