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Lie to Me, Season One - Three (2009 - 2011) - An Interesting Drama about Deception and Truth


Since my library of television shows weren’t ready to arrive on DVD, and I ran through all five available seasons of The Mentalist in record time, I had to go hunting for a “fill-in.” 

Rudimentary research and a trip to the video store later, I walked out with two discs of Fox’s Lie to Me and the hope that if nothing else, it’d be interesting.


As the best deception specialist there is, Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) is something of a human lie detector. From his book sales (inspired by his government work), he now owns his own company, The Lightman Group. A group that has assembled the best in the field. 

Their current case involves a murdered high school teacher. While interviewing the students – along with his partner, therapist Dr. Gillian Foster (Kellie Williams), Cal uncovers more than meets the eye is hiding in this case, including a student who was home schooled by strict parents and is now something of a local misfit in the eyes of his peers.

Rounding out the Lightman Group is the hot-headed Eli Loker (Brendan Hines) whose work clashes with Cal's personality. Into this comes TSA screener Ria Torres (Monica Raymund) whom Cal and Gillian vetted after reading her near perfect deception diagnostic testing score. Ria is what the deception world would call a “natural,” she has no formal training, but her skill at detecting deception is eerie. With office politics, and many cases from a variety of sources, these are the cases of the Lightman Group. 


Lie to Me is the kind of show that is probably going to smack you across the face a time or
two, and enjoy doing so. It’s not because there are poignant truths you can glean (although there are some of these) or the purpose behind each story is meant to resonate with a viewer, more because it’ll make you rethink what we, as, layman, think of as dishonest indicators. Plus, there is the fact that its protagonist can sometimes morph into an antagonist, and his “idea” of truth is enough to stun anyone. 

Season one is more diverse in its cases and not so consumed with being full of crazy life-or-death situations, whereas the second season tends to lean more into the “dangerous” excitement (cases that involve kidnapping and the danger of being shot). What this does is morph into more of an adrenaline rush with its thirst for seeking to follow in the footsteps of the crime drama scene. 

This leading character is a guy who doesn’t care what others threaten his own person with or say about him. However, if you threaten his people or family, then you’d best watch out! Only Cal can talk trash to or about his employees (I just have to say, I adore the friendship between Cal and Gillian); this certainly made an interesting persona. That being said, the writers do toy with various impersonations of his character. He starts out annoying in a tolerable manner before they amplify that in a portion of season two and finally, evening out in the latter portion of season three, which is sadly left open-ended. 


Annoying habits aside, part of the fun lies in watching Cal at his work, both in the environment and his process. The friendship he has with Gillian is beautiful and leaves audiences feeling happy without the complications of a romance; the final season mucks this up, only to be cut short before the possibilities can be explored. 

If nothing else, I’m willing to bet the show will make you think about things in ways you never have before. Certainly something meant to entertain has a creative license which could eliminate reality completely but given that this was loosely based on a real group of professionals, I’m operating on the assumption a tandem amount of research was compiled. Given this, it’s cool to think this is a profession that working professionals actually specialize in. Because of that, one thing stands out; Lie to Me is likely to make you  look at the reactions of people very differently. And that's the truth.

*Because I don’t own the first season DVD to refer to and I couldn’t find a straight answer online, the synopsis I used may not be the first episode. That being said, hopefully it introduces all the main players without too much confusion.  

(Content: there are a few bedroom scenes [one involves exes reuniting, others are either related to a case or later, one of the main characters becomes begins dating] throughout the entire 3 season run, mostly the sexual content involved is mainly innuendo [we learn one of the characters "experimented"], though there are some awkward conversations between Cal and his daughter – she once admits she’s already had sex with a boyfriend and that she and her current boyfriend haven’t. There is some profanity and some violence. Hostage situations, characters are shot, bombings injure people, one case involves a rapist. A character’s ex is a drug addict. The show is rated TV14.)
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  1. I was so sad when this was canceled. :( I liked the friendship between Cal and Gillian, too. I'm glad they didn't get romantically involved, it was refreshing. Although, yeah the final season does muck that up a bit. I think, had it not been canceled they might have got together, but only in the series finale. And that would have been cool with me, I like a friendship turned romance between two people who have known each other for so long. :)

    "this show is likely to make you never look at the reactions of people the same again."
    ^ Agreed!

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    1. Since I recently watched this on DVD, I didn't follow its cancellation at the time, however yes, I was sorry to see it end too, Renu. It was REALLY a good show and premise. I'm the biggest supporter of putting the leading couple together (because usually, I like the tease, friends becoming romantic interests - this is a win-win if done right, or how cute they are), however like you, I like it when they steer clear of that because a.) it's refreshing and b.) when the writer's do put the couple's together, they don't always remain a couple which in turn ruins the FABULOUS friendship we watched grow for X amount of seasons.

      If another season had been green lit, yeah, they probably would have played up the romantic tension. In some ways, maybe it's best to end as it did. But then, in others, it's very much missed. :)

      Thanks for visiting!

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  2. This is one of my all-time favorite shows. I think about it when I'm writing a complicated scene, trying to use body language to show what the character's thinking/feeling even when they're saying something completely different. I wish it would have had more seasons.

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    1. It wound up being a favorite for me as well, Karen. Too bad it's no longer airing. :/

      How neat that you used it for inspiration for your writing! I love that - it certainly makes the viewer think about people's reactions. There is no question about that! :D

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  3. This was one of my favorite shows! I loved the depth behind each story line, there was no easy shut and run cases. It kept you thinking and guessing! Cal's personality cracked me up, and Gillian was just plain classy. Although his daughter got on my nerves at times, I loved the relationship she had with her dad.

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    1. Everything you said, Heather = YES! Cal made me laugh (though on occasion he got on my nerves), Gillian was probably the classiest female lead I've "met" on TV and the father-daughter relationship between Emily and Cal was sweet. I think I still prefer Alexis and Castle but... this was a memorable relationship too. :)

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  4. I seriously loved this series and was so sad when it was cancelled. It was so good and the depth was really intriguing.
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

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    1. Exactly, Missie. I agree completely. It could have benefitted from a fourth season though on the other hand, if they ruined Cal and Gillian's friendship, I'd have been mad. ;)

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  5. My sisters and I LOVE this series! We started watching it a couple months ago and are a little slow finishing it (on the second season still)...mainly because I don't want it to end. I think it's just really interesting. And I agree, after watching this show I always watch peoples reactions! Love the review, Rissi!

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    1. Good for you, Bekah! Draw it out. We sort of binge-watched it and couldn't seem to stop. It's sad to see it over though someday, I think we'll rewatch it. It IS interesting and I love that - much as I adore mystery/cop series (i.e., NCIS, Hawaii Five-O, Person of Interest), it's nice to watch something a little different now and again. Hope you continue to enjoy - and thank you for reading!

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    2. I love cop shows also...especially Hawaii Five-0!! (Have you heard Catherine/Michelle Borth isn't coming back for Season 5?? How could they?!) I've heard Person of Interest is good from a lot of people...I'll have to try it sometime.

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    3. Hawaii Five-o is one of my VERY favorites, Bekah. Every year when the DVD set arrives, I binge watch it because well, it's awesome. Yes, I did read that Catherine isn't returning. Makes me sad. :/ Especially as I liked her and Steve together. Person of Interest is excellent! It's more serious-minded as opposed to a nice, "light-hearted" drama, however the cases, and the mysterious characters make it one of THE best on television. If you ever try it, let me know what you thought. :)

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  6. I really enjoyed watching this show. It was definitely captivating, and made you think about people's reactions a bit more than you normally would've before. I was so disappointed when I got to the end of season 3 on Netflix and found out it was the last season! What a sad day that was. It's always so depressing when a good show gets cancelled. *cough* *cough* Veronica Mars! ; ) Awesome review Rissi!

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    1. Same here, Regina. If nothing else, that is the one thing this show will do - make a viewer look at the reactions of people very differently. While it would have been nice to get more seasons of this otherwise great show (especially as S3 was so short), at least it didn't end on a cliffhanger - we can write our own ending! :D

      (YES! Veronica Mars ended way too soon. *sigh* I know there were complaints tied into S3 and V heading off to college, but honestly, I thought it was just as good. At least we got a movie that was really very well done.)

      Thanks for reading, Regina.

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