I first developed a crush on Tim Roth when I saw him in Reservoir Dogs in the Savoy Cinema in 1992. I know he’s not traditionally good looking in a ‘tall, dark and handsome’ way but there’s something about his attitude and charisma that I fell for instantly. My talent crush developed as I sought out his other films. Roth is one of those actors who rarely goes for a bad script, unerringly picking interesting well written projects. Some of my favourite films of his are The Legend of 1900, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (based on the Tom Stoppard play, co-starring Gary Oldman, and hysterically funny), and Liar (also called Deceiver in the US), all of which I’d urge you to check out if you haven’t seen them already. Roth also directed a film entitled The War Zone, a hard hitting family drama starring Ray Winstone and Tilda Swinton which was very well received on its release in 1999.
I was interested to see that the full three seasons of Lie to Me, the TV show that Roth starred in, has recently come to Netflix and so I set about watching it a couple of weeks ago. Lie to Me is about Cal Lightman (played by Roth and loosely based on Dr. Paul Ekman) who runs the Lightman Group, a company which specialises in deception detection and is often hired by law enforcement groups to help with difficult cases. It co-stars Kelli Williams as Dr. Gillian Foster, Lightman’s business partner and close friend; Monica Raymund as Ria Torres, a natural at lie detection and Lightman’s protege; and Brendan Hines as Eli Loker, the company nerd and butt of Lightman’s jokes.
Police procedural dramas can often be formulaic and can get dull after a few episodes. In order to combat this the writers must develop the characters, their inner lives and backstory, and also develop story arcs that continue over the series in order to keep the viewers’ interest. Criminal Minds is one of my favourite TV shows for this very reason; the characters are well rounded and compelling and over the course of eight seasons we’ve gotten to know them well.
Unfortunately Lie to Me doesn’t hold up in this regard and I think that’s probably part of the reason it was cancelled after three seasons. The viewer barely gets to know the characters at all. Some issues in each character’s past life are alluded to but not developed and the relationships between the characters, not professionally but personally, are not explored. It’s a shame as the cast are great and the premise has a lot of potential, but unfortunately the show became fairly boring and the story lines somewhat predictable after the first season.
So judge Mr Roth not on this project. Go and look at the films I recommended above and be amazed by his dedication to his craft, his considerable natural talent and his smouldering presence on screen (at least, I think there’s a touch of the smoulder about him – perhaps I’m on my own!).