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"Lie to Me" Should Be a Fox Hit -- Honest

If I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’: Lie to Me, Fox’s new midseason drama starring Tim Roth as a human lie detector who solves crimes and other mysteries by “reading” people and their subconscious tells, should be an instant hit. (Related: Fox Trots Out ‘Lie To Me’ in a City Where “No One Lies”)

It doesn’t hurt, of course, that this stylish new show premieres tonight at 9 ET, right after an installment of American Idol. You can’t ask for a better launching pad than that. But Lie to Me should please whatever audience it inherits, because it not only has a good gimmick, but a winning cast and a script clever enough to stress character as much as mystery.

On the surface, there’s a lot of House here – and that’s by no means a complaint. Tim Roth, as lecturer and freelance investigative consultant Dr. Cal Lightman, is a different kind of doctor, but has a lot in common with Hugh Laurie’s cranky physician.

Both of them are smugly confident of their own analytical skills, even though Lightman, like House, sometimes takes a circuitous path to arrive at the actual truth. Both are complemented in the work place (in this case, the well-appointed Lightman Group headquarters) by a beautiful, argumentative woman (in this case, Kelli Williams from The Practice, who has her own endearing quirks. One difference: Roth, unlike Laurie, gets to retain his British accent. And doesn’t have to limp.

The visual gimmicks this show provides include slow-motion and freeze-frame video (the better to capture the tics of evasion), and a parade of recognizable faces caught in the act of prevaricating. Et tu, Bill Clinton? But I like the cast even more: Roth and Williams are good enough to hit funny and sour tones with their roles, and the supporting players – Brendan Hines as puppyish Eli and Monica Raymund as new recruit Ria – add a welcome additional layer of personality and playfulness.

Created and written by Samuel Baum, and the latest TV effort from Brian Grazer and company, Lie to Me looks like it will succeed instantly – and come by that success honestly.