I recently got a screener for Fox’s midseason drama Lie to Me, starring Tim Roth as a cynical genius who studies “deception detection”: the science of noticing tiny “microexpressions” in a person’s face to determine whether they’re lying, what they’re thinking or how they’re feeling.
The show is yet another example of the TV trend/cliche of the moment: the idiosyncratic, eccentric or misanthropic genius who uses his (almost always his) expertise in some rarefied field of observation or science to solve crimes or medical mysteries. (Think House, Life, The Mentalist, Eleventh Hour, Psych, etc.)
How far can TV go with this? What areas of arcane knowledge should TV explore next? I’ll start you off:
Dolittle, Ph.D.: Animal psychologist John Dolittle is an caustic, sarcastic pain in the ass to everyone who works with him. But to America’s pet owners, he’s a godsend, having risen to fame and fortune as an author and cable-TV host who teaches them to understand their dog’s, cat’s or parakeets nonverbal signals. But after his wife dies in a horrible crime—set upon by rottweilers trained to attack her by a jealous professional rival—Dolittle vows to use his ability to “talk to the animals” for a higher purpose: to solve crimes. Each week, befuddled police call in Dolittle, who “interrogates” pooches, snakes and race horses who are the unspeaking witnesses to crimes, sensing in them the details and signs of trauma that lead him to put the murderers behind bars. (Bonus twist: Dolittle doesn’t have any pets. Because he actually hates animals! Can’t stand them! He’s just that kind of eccentric genius!)
Your turn. Get that pitch ready before TV moves on to the next tread!