“Lie to Me”
Wednesdays at 9 p.m.
FOX

2.5 out of 5 Stars

In “Lie to Me,” FOX’s answer to every other crime series on television, Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth, “The Incredible Hulk”) is Washington, D.C. law enforcement’s on-call superhero, part marginally less angry House and part brainier Batman. He’s also a variable human lie detector — Lightman can sense dishonesty before a suspect even begins to speak — and he’s just as smug and self-satisfied about it as expected.

In a show that purports to look deeper into things and eschew the obvious, the characters and plot are disappointingly one-dimensional. All of the usual detective show regulars are here working side-by-side with Lightman. There’s Hutchinson, the skeptical superior (Josh Stamberg, “Fracture”), Gillian, the beautiful, compassionate-yet-unavailable coworker (Kelli Williams, “The Practice”), Ria, the tough-as-nails newbie (Monica Raymund, “Law and Order”), and Eli, the goofy but lovable young assistant with the inevitable crush on the unavailable coworker (Brendan Hines, “The Sarah Connor Chronicles”). Despite the prototypical orbiting cast, Roth makes leading man Lightman a pretty well-rounded character.

Initally, little is revealed about Lightman except that he’s divorced, smarmy and has a precocious daughter well versed in “Juno” speak. But throughout the show, brief glimpses into his psyche pop up to deepen our understanding of him. Though his examinations of facial and body language are entirely scientific (and based on real-life deception expert Dr. Paul Ekman), Lightman is the typical comic book superhero. He’s inwardly tortured by his ability. Though he generally uses his powers of truth-detection for good, they hinder him from existing contentedly in a world full of liars.

His unusual moral code emerges in the pilot when he watches psychologist Gillian, the aforementioned unavailable coworker and the heart to Lightman’s brains and brawn, being deceived by her husband. He doesn’t say a word. Yet on the job, Lightman sheds his Bruce Wayne persona and becomes completely unpredictable and unorthodox. In order to eke a confession out of a shaky high school student, he tells her that the falsely apprehended suspect has hung himself in his jail cell and that it was all her fault. Even after her sobbing confession, Lightman doesn’t bother to tell her the whole thing was a setup.

Much of “Lie To Me” fits snugly inside the mold of a typical crime series, though it does attempt to break it on some occasions. Flashy camera techniques are readily employed — quick zoom-ins on the deceitful facial expressions and gestures of the suspects, and occasional real-life footage of some infamous truth dodgers (O.J. Simpson and Dick Cheney included). This fancy filming, however, rarely trusts the viewers to make connections for themselves.

There’s also some fairly snappy dialogue — Lightman dryly asks his daughter’s new boyfriend, “You going to try to sleep with my daughter tonight?” — but it ends up feeling a bit contrived. And as Gillian eats pudding and drinks Slurpees at 9 a.m. to the chagrin of Lightman, it’s obvious the writers want viewers to believe she’s quirky and child-like, but it’s not convincingly executed.

“Lie To Me” wants audiences to believe that they can’t predict its plot as accurately as Lightman can predict human deception. But until the show separates itself from its innumerable predecessors, audiences will be no less jaded than Lightman.

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