Lie to Me (2009–2011)


Lie to Me (TV Series 2009–2011)

Dr. Cal Lightman teaches a course in body language and makes an honest fortune exploiting it. He's employed by various public authorities in various investigations, doing more when the police etc. fail to go the extra mile. So he can afford to constitute a team of his own, which like clients and others has to put up with his mind-games.
IMDb   8 /10
TheMovieDb    7.8 /10
FilmAffinity   6.6 /10
Creator Samuel Baum
Release Date2009-01-20
GenreCrime, Drama, Mystery
Content RatingTV-14 (TV-14)
AwardsNominated for 1 Primetime Emmy4 wins & 8 nominations total
CompanyImagine Television, Samuel Baum Productions, MiddKid Productions
Dr. Cal Lightmanas Dr. Cal Lightman
Dr. Gillian Fosteras Dr. Gillian Foster
Eli Lokeras Eli Loker
Ria Torresas Ria Torres
Emily Lightmanas Emily Lightman
Ben Reynoldsas Ben Reynolds
Kristen Ariza
Kristen Ariza
Heidias Heidi
Detective Sharon Wallowskias Detective Sharon Wallowski
Zoe Landauas Zoe Landau
Alec Fosteras Alec Foster…
Karl Dupreeas Karl Dupree
Clara Mussoas Clara Musso
Dave Athertonas Dave Atherton…
Bernard Dillonas Bernard Dillon
Charlesas Charles

Lie to Me

Lie to Me (stylized as Lie to me*) is an American crime drama television series. It originally ran on the Fox network from January 21, 2009, to January 31, 2011. In the show, Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) and his colleagues in The Lightman Group accept assignments from third parties (commonly local and federal law enforcement), and assist in investigations, reaching the truth through applied psychology: interpreting microexpressions, through the Facial Action Coding System, and body language. In May 2009, the show was renewed for a second season consisting of 13 episodes; season two premiered on September 28, 2009. On November 24, 2009, Fox ordered an extra nine episodes for season two, bringing the season order to 22 episodes.

On May 12, 2010, Entertainment Weekly reported that Lie to Me received a 13-episode third season pick-up. The third season of Lie to Me was originally set to premiere on November 10, 2010. On September 28, 2010, the date was moved up to October 4, 2010, because of the cancellation of Lone Star. On May 11, 2011, Fox canceled Lie to Me after three seasons.

The show is inspired by the work of Paul Ekman, a specialist on facial expressions and a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. Ekman has been an advisor to police departments and anti-terrorism groups. He was a scientific consultant in the production of the series. The lead character of Lie to Me, Cal Lightman, is based on Ekman.

Cast and characters


  • Tim Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman, a brilliant expert in the science of body language, especially microexpressions, and founder of The Lightman Group, a private company that operates as an independent contractor to assist investigations of local and federal law enforcement through applied psychology. Though often confronted by people's skepticism, Lightman uses any technique he deems necessary to reach the truth, however elaborate or confronting. He is divorced and shares custody of his teenage daughter. He cares deeply about his colleague Gillian Foster; and there is a chemistry between them that has yet to develop into anything more although, in the Season 3 finale, he confesses to his daughter that he loves her. His mother committed suicide while he was still young, an event that led him to discovering and researching microexpressions. There is evidence he was involved with British Intelligence in Northern Ireland. Lightman also mentioned interrogating militant suspects recalling his release of one suspect resulted in the shootings of 6 and the deaths of 3 in a murder operation the suspect subsequently carried out. He has also admitted to being an MI6 intelligence agent during the Yugoslav Wars (1994) in an attempt to gain the trust of an intelligence agent that he was interrogating. Lightman is a West Ham United supporter as he mentions himself in Season 2. He can also be seen wearing a Claret and Blue scarf in one of the later episodes of Season 2.
  • Kelli Williams as Dr. Gillian Foster, Dr. Lightman's psychologist colleague in The Lightman Group who analyses patterns of voice, language, and behavior. She can be somewhat impulsive but is very professional with the clients and subjects in public. While she occasionally disagrees with some of Lightman's actions, she has an open pact with Lightman: not to let their professional skill interfere with coworkers' personal lives. Her husband's lack of candor often challenges this: When Cal believes her husband, Alec, is cheating on her, he simply ignores what he is seeing, much to Torres's dismay. It is later revealed that he was not cheating on her but was trying to overcome his drug addiction; they promptly divorce. Gillian had adopted a baby (Sophie) who was eventually returned to the birth mother. This character is based on Maureen O’Sullivan, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of San Francisco.
  • Brendan Hines as Eli Loker, an employee of The Lightman Group. Unlike Torres, whom Lightman calls "a natural", Loker acquired his skills in "reading" people through academic education and practice. During Season 1, he also adheres to Radical Honesty and thus rarely lies, even if that makes him appear rude or undiplomatic. Lightman demoted him to an unpaid intern after, despite Foster's warnings, he divulged sensitive information to the SEC while working on a case. However, he is later promoted to Vice President, which makes a rift in any developing relationship between him and Torres.
  • Monica Raymund as Ria Torres, an employee of The Lightman Group and Dr. Lightman's protégé, who was recognized as a "natural" while she was still working as a TSA Agent. Torres was abused as a child, a common pattern among naturals. Though talented and loyal, she lacks academic training and sometimes lets her emotions cloud her judgment. She has a half-sister who was in juvenile prison and is now enrolled at a private school.
  • Hayley McFarland as Emily Lightman, Cal Lightman's teenage daughter. Her parents share custody of her, and, while she does not appreciate her father's ability to "read" her, she does not deny its merit for social screening. She has boyfriends over the series that her father scrutinizes. Though she sometimes gets into trouble and has fake IDs, and, to Lightman's chagrin, has been sexually active, she is generally well behaved and has a loving relationship with her father. (Recurring – Season 1, regular – Seasons 2–3)
  • Mekhi Phifer as Ben Reynolds, an FBI Agent who is assigned to and assists the Lightman Group in their investigations, offering armed assistance, practical insights, and access to FBI resources and connections. Reynolds doesn't always agree with Lightman's ways but stands behind him most of the time. (Recurring – season 1, regular – season 2)


  • Jennifer Beals as Zoe Landau, Cal Lightman's ex-wife and Emily's mother, occupied as an Assistant Attorney General. While engaged to another man, she also engaged in a tryst with Lightman, after he helped her in a case. (Seasons 1 & 2)
  • Tim Guinee as Alec Foster, Gillian Foster's ex-husband. He works at the United States Department of State and is a recovering cocaine addict. Throughout the series it was heavily hinted that he was having an extramarital affair until it was revealed that the woman was his CA sponsor. He and Gillian divorced. (Season 1)
  • Sean Patrick Thomas as Special Agent Karl Dupree. Dupree initially assisted the Lightman group on a case involving a controversial South Korean ambassador who is presumed to be an assassination target at his son's state wedding. Torres and Dupree are romantically involved later in season one. He also defends Torres against Loker when he divulged sensitive information to the SEC while working on a case. (Season 1)
  • Melissa George as Clara Musso. She was Zoe Landau's first big client, so Lightman helped her find out who really killed her husband and prove her innocence. She later inherited her husband's company, and showed interest in Lightman's work on deception detection, in that she paid him to teach her some techniques, and then invested in his firm. (Season 2)
  • Monique Gabriela Curnen as Detective Sharon Wallowski, a police officer who assists Lightman. She also engages in a romantic relationship with Cal Lightman, but ends it once Lightman finds out the truth about her past as a dirty cop. (Season 3)
  • Brandon Jones as Liam, Emily Lightman's boyfriend, a high school jock who is not intimidated by Cal Lightman. Emily breaks up with him because he does not believe in sex before marriage. (Season 3)


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
113January 21, 2009May 13, 2009
222September 28, 2009September 13, 2010
313October 4, 2010January 31, 2011


Season one opens with Cal and Gillian hiring a new associate: TSA officer Ria Torres, who scored extraordinarily high on Cal's deception-detection diagnostic, and is in turn labeled a "natural" at deception detection. Her innate talent in the field clashes with Cal's academic approach, and he often shows off by rapidly analyzing her every facial expression. She counters by reading Lightman and, when he least expects it, peppers conversations with quotes from his books.

It was gradually revealed that Dr. Lightman was driven to study micro-expressions as a result of guilt over his mother's suicide. She claimed to have been fine in order to obtain a weekend pass from a psychiatric ward, when she was actually experiencing agony (which parallels an anecdote in Paul Ekman's book "Telling Lies").

For a small number of the early episodes, Lightman would team up with Torres to work on a case, while Foster and Loker would team up on a separate case. Occasionally, their work would intertwine, or Foster and/or Lightman would provide assistance on each other's cases. As the first season progressed, the cases became more involved, and all four of the main characters would work together on one case for each episode.

In addition to detecting deception in subjects they interview, Lightman and his team also use various interviewing and interrogation tactics to elicit useful information. Rather than by force, they use careful lines of questioning, provocative statements, theatrics and healthy doses of deception on their own part. In the show's pilot episode, Lightman is speaking to a man who is refusing to speak at all, and is able to discern vital information by talking to him and gauging his reaction to each statement. This approach is also taken in several other episodes (e.g., "Do No Harm").


Samuel Baum was the original showrunner and head writer on Lie to Me. Brian Grazer, David Nevins, and Steven Maeda were executive producers. Katherine Pope, former president of NBC Universal's TV studio, signed on as a consulting producer, working on the final four episodes of the first season. Shawn Ryan, creator of The Shield and The Unit, took over as show runner for the second season.

The show's theme song, Brand New Day, was performed by Ryan Star.


Critical reception

The show received mostly positive reviews from television critics. It gained a score of 64 on Metacritic from 24 reviews. Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker awarded Lie to Me a B- rating and wrote "Lie to Me is derivative yet well crafted, predictable yet ever-so-slightly novel… it's no wonder that Fox thinks it's got itself a potential hit". However, he also commented "if this review were a face, Dr. Lightman would say it had a forced smile: hopeful, but dubious, about Lie's chances." Tom Shales, writing for The Washington Post, said "Lie to Me seems an unusually meaty, thoughtful and thought-provoking crime drama – another police procedural, yes, but one with a dramatic and mesmerizing difference… easily one of the season's best new shows."


In the United States, the viewing figures declined as the series progressed. The Pilot was seen by 12.37 million; however, by the final episode of the first season, it was down to 8.46 million. The most viewed episode was episode three, "A Perfect Score", which attracted 12.99 million. The second season premiered on September 28, 2009, to 7.73 million viewers. The season two finale had 4.94 million viewers in the U.S. on September 13, 2010. The third season, which had its premiere moved forward to October 4, 2010, was viewed by 5.87 million people in the U.S. The series' official cancellation was announced by Fox on May 10, 2011.

Seasonal ratings

SeasonEpisodesOriginal airingRankViewers
(in millions)
Season premiereSeason finaleTV season
113January 21, 2009May 13, 20092008–2009#2911.06Fox
222September 28, 2009September 13, 20102009–2010#577.39
313October 4, 2010January 31, 20112010–2011#786.71

Awards and nominations

Primetime Emmy Awards

  • 2009 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Main Title Design (nominee)

People's Choice Awards

Lie to me was nominated for two awards at the 37th People's Choice Awards and won both of them.

  • 2011 Favorite TV Crime Drama (WON)
  • 2011 Favorite TV Crime Fighter (Tim Roth, WON)

International broadcasting

The series was broadcast on Global in Canada, Network Ten in Australia, M-Net in South Africa, and also airs in Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Hungary and Belgium. Lie to Me aired on Sky1 in the UK and Ireland, starting on May 14, 2009. On July 20, 2009, Fox aired the premiere in Latin America. RTL 5 in The Netherlands has been broadcasting it since November 6, 2009. The series debuted in Italy on September 7, 2009, on the Fox Satellite channel. The series has aired in India since September 2010.

CountryTelevision Network
AlbaniaDigi +
EgyptOSN First
ArmeniaKentron TV
AustraliaNetwork Ten, W
Belgium2BE, RTL-TVI
BrazilFox, Rede Record
BulgariabTV Cinema
CanadaGlobal, V
ChileFox, MEGA
ColombiaFox, Caracol Televisión
Costa RicaFox
Czech RepublicTV Prima
Dominican RepublicFox
El Salvador
FranceM6, Paris Première, W9
GeorgiaRustavi 2
HaitiCanal Bleu
HungaryRTL Klub, Cool TV
IcelandStöð 2
IndiaSTAR World
IndonesiaFox, Rajawali Televisi
IrelandRTÉ Two
Israelyes stars Action HD
ItalyFox, Rete 4, Top Crime
JapanFox, TV Tokyo
LatviaTV3, TV3+, TV6, Fox Life
MalaysiaNTV7, Fox
MauritiusMBCDigital12 (Cine12)
MoldovaJurnal TV
The NetherlandsRTL 5
New ZealandTV3 (New Zealand)
PanamaFox, TV Max
PhilippinesFox, Jack TV
PolandCanal+ Poland, FOX Life, TVP Seriale, TVP2
PortugalFOX (Portugal), TVI
RomaniaPro TV
RussiaChannel One (Russia), TV3
SerbiaTV Avala, FOX
SlovakiaTV JOJ
South AfricaM-Net
South KoreaFox
SpainAntena3, Cuatro
SwitzerlandRSI La 1, 3+, TSR 1
ThailandTrue Series, Fox Thailand
TurkeyFoxlife, Fox Crime, TV2
United KingdomSky1, Pick TV, Universal Channel, Alibi
UruguayMonte Carlo TV

Home media

As of March 2020, all episodes are available on the streaming service Hulu.

Season one and two have been released on DVD in Regions 1, 2 and 4. However, while season one was also released on Blu-ray in North America there has been no announcement about releasing the second season on Blu-ray. The first and second season DVDs sets include deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes featurettes. The second season also includes "Dr. Ekman's Blog" and a gag reel. The third and final season was released on October 4, 2011.

SeasonDVD release dateBlu-ray release date
Region ARegion B
Region 1Region 2Region 4United StatesCanadaUnited KingdomAustralia
1August 25, 2009September 14, 2009October 28, 2009August 25, 2009N/ADecember 5, 2012
2November 9, 2010January 3, 2011December 1, 2010N/AN/AN/AN/A
3October 4, 2011N/ANovember 2, 2011N/AN/ACancelled