Tonight marks the debut of "Lie To Me," (Fox, 9 p.m.), a new procedural that stars Tim Roth as a human lie detector who helps solve crimes with his team.
Roth joins the ranks of other British actors such as Hugh Laurie and Damian Lewis jumping across the pond to move into regular series TV. Unlike his countrymen, Roth is keeping his regular accent.
"I said I'm not doing it," Roth said in a phone interview last week. "I spoke to actors who do do that and the work level is huge because you want to get it right. It'd be overkill. ... It was a dealbreaker with Fox, but they were cool with it."
Roth said he became interested in the series because it is based on the work of real-life psychologist Paul Ekman, who has written books and taught seminars about the science of lie detection, based on body language and speech patterns.
While some have insisted that "Lie To Me" is too similar in vein to CBS' "The Mentalist," I found the pilot to be better than the Simon Baker hit. Unlike "The Mentalist," "Lie To Me" has a background in science and doesn't rely on Roth's team being clueless so that only he can make observations.
In the premiere, Roth and his team must help solve the murder of a high school teacher, seemingly committed by a student. Meanwhile, a congressman is under investigation for frequenting a strip club.
Do they encounter lies during the investigation? Of course (otherwise, it'd be a very short show). But, as Roth's partner, Kelli Williams, points out: it's necessary to find out why the person is lying in the first place.
For Roth, who has spent most of his career in the movies, switching to TV is a refreshing change, he said. "I quite like the idea of playing a character in long form," he said. "It's like doing a play in the West End. It's a different situation, and I like that."
Roth also likes the sort of gray area his character inhabits. Roth is best-known for playing villains through his career, and even though his current character is the series' protagonist, he isn't really the hero.
"I haven't really thought about it," he said. "This guy could be bad."
Perhaps the most interesting thing is to see how "Lie" fares. On the one hand, Fox has heavily promoted the series and placed it right behind "American Idol." On the other hand, it has to face off with "Lost" in the 9 p.m. timeslot.
WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Speaking of "Lost," it takes up the entire night of ABC's programming with a one-hour clip show at 8 p.m. to catch viewers up (yeah, like you can really explain this series to someone in an hour), followed by the two-hour season premiere.
CBS has new episodes of "Old Christine," "Gary Unmarried," "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY," while NBC still inflicts "Knight Rider" (NBC, 8 p.m.) upon us, with a new "Law & Order" at 10 p.m.
PBS continues the documentary miniseries "Make 'Em Laugh" at 8 p.m.
Finally, on cable, there's a new "Damages" (FX, 10 p.m.)