L  e  n  s  V  i  e  w  s

A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Lie To Me ~ Season One [Blu-ray]

 

(Series created by Samuel Baum, 2009)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Fox Television

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: All

Runtime: approx

Chapters: 13

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray Case w/ flippage

Release date: August 25, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC @ 21 Mbps

 

Audio:

English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish and French

 

Extras:

• The Truth About Lies – in HD (26:06)

• Deleted Scenes – in HD (19:19)

 

 

The Film: 6
Ostensibly a show about lying, Lie To Me investigates the moral ambiguities about lying and truth telling, as in: it may not always be the right thing to do to tell the truth or, at least, not all of it or all the time. The setting is a special investigating team that is sent hither and yon to sort out fact from fiction using the latest scientific tools to determine if a witness or suspect is telling the truth. Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) both interviews subjects and studies their reactions and expressions to questions on video tapes and compares them to other similar expressions – something like a bank of DNA, though not nearly as accurate, leaving lots of room for experienced interpretation.

In the first season of CSI, Gil Grissom, as played by William Peterson, enjoys teaching his underlings, and thereby: us, about how to do crime scene investigation: what to look for and how the science works. With the help of graphic computer graphics, the series became an instant success and spawned other CSI series based in New York and Miami. The fundamental creative challenge for Lie To Me is how to make the science compelling. The language: "See how he shrugs his shoulders here or flares his nostrils there . . ." doesn't have much staying power, and there is very little in the way of CG effects that seem obvious to explain this or that piece of investigation. This leaves character, storyline and script to separate this series from any number of criminal investigations.

First off, there’s Tim Roth as Dr. Lightman who, in a manner much in the mould of Gregory House, treads the dual roles of team player and know-it-all. Lightman is a bit less abrasive than House, and he lies to colleagues as well as witnesses when it suits him, thus throwing his peers off their ethical balance should they be inclined to the truth at all costs. Enter: Ria Torres (Monica Raymund) as a natural body language reader who sometimes misses the big picture, so devoted is she to the truth. Lightman’s other in-house colleagues are Dr. Gillian Foster (Kelli Williams), smart and a tad skeptical, and Eli Loker (Brendan Hines), who keeps his female colleagues off balance by confusing truthfulness with frankness.

The stories, like so many other shows of this general type, are of the ripped from the headlines variety, and writers keep things fresh with mixed results. The scripts have at least two or three well turned phrases per episode and, along the way, score a number of insightful observations about the usefulness of lie detector tests, including Lightman's. A lie detector, we are told repeatedly, might be able to tell when someone is lying, but it can't tell what the subject is lying about – It's a truism that resonates with our daily assumptions about other people. What is needed, as in all psychometric tests, is interpretation – and therein lies the possibility of drama. It's a subtle business, and the show tends to pander too often to easy smirks – as when Lightman compares the expression of the subject at hand with an infamous, often embarrassing photo of a celebrity.

 


 

Image: 4/7
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Considering that Lie To Me is a happening kind of show, I was surprised to see such a lackluster image on Blu-ray: It’s flat, thin, grainy, almost devoid of black, and not big on detail. I can understand if the televised original would have chosen a low-key pictorial design that de-emphasizes snappy, clear-cut images for obvious reasons. Still, the result on Blu-ray, which also reveals some noise (at times hard to tell form the grain), and edge enhancement, does not draw me in. In any case, I’ve seen DVDs at least as good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 7/6
The audio fares much better. Of course, there’s not a great deal of opportunity for it to strut its stuff, though there are nicely some nicely turned, dynamic and solid bass effects in “Life is Priceless,” an episode that centers around rescue operations at a collapsed construction site. Dialogue is always intelligible and right where you want it. Music is usually front-directed, but opens up the soundstage when the drama calls for more support.

 

Operations: 6
Ordinarily I find menus with hidden agenda frustrating. In the absence of much in the way of Special Features, the only thing that's hidden are the episode titles, and all are revealed in just two clicks. At least everything is easy to read and self-navigating.

 

 

 

Extras: 2
We're getting mighty close to the bare bones here, with only two offerings: The first is a making-of featurette that all too briefly slides through the original scientific research by Dr. Paul Eckman, whose work is the inspiration for Tim Roth's character, and moves through matter of the development of the series. The second are a handful of deleted scenes, some of which are simply extensions of alternate takes.

 

 

Bottom line: 5
I wasn't especially bowled over by this Blu-ray set at any level. All the same, Roth is a kick, and the fundamental questions raised throughout about "truth" and "lies" are intriguing. I just wasn't convinced that a full length series is the most persuasive or entertaining packaging of the issues. At this writing Amazon is offering Lie To Me Season One at a substantial discount of 45%.

Leonard Norwitz
September 3rd, 2009

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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