Lie to Me, Damned Lies and Statistics

Have a feature in today’s Toronto Star on all the “frostbacks” on the January press tour. Read the full story here, or better yet, buy a paper. Please!

Frostbacks is an expression I’d never heard of until Star TV columnist Rob Salem spelled it out for me last July–Canadians working on U.S. network television. It is an expanding list, especially this winter, with a mix of familiar faces and a couple of promising rookies.
They include Toronto lad Keir Gilchrist (above), so good as the sexually confused teen in United States of Tara, and Corey Monteith, a 26-year-old Vancouver actor who had landed the plum role of All-American high school quarterback in the promising Fox musical Glee. That series probably won’t surface until April or later but look out for it, the clip shown critics at press tour was a wow. Think High School Musical with an edge, provided by none other than Nip/Tuck showrunner Ryan Murphy.
I was singing the shows praises this morning at a Broadcast Executives Society seminar at the Four Seasons in downtown Toronto. Marc Berman, Mediaweek’s “Programming Insider,” flew up from New York to deliver his usual expert spin on networks and ratings. I was asked to chime in with observations off the press tour and some Canadian data.
Berman is the go-to guy for network numbers. He’s been at it for years and his daily column is a must read if you are in the industry. Sign up for his daily email updates here. Canadian networks are lining up to get in on his expertise.
We both agree that Lie To Me, the new Fox drama which stars Tim Roth (above, middle at press tour) and starts tomorrow night (in Canada on Global), has breakout hit potential. That seemed to be the consensus at press tour, too. Roth plays an expert who has spent years studying how facial ticks and expressions as well as body posture gives away whether or not somebody is lying, which makes him valuable to the cops. It’s all based on the real-life scientific discoveries of Dr. Paul Ekman, at press tour as a consultant on the series.
Ekman, an older gentleman, admitted it wasn’t always fun for his family to have a lie detector dad in the house. “Well, apparently my kids try to see what they can get away with a lot,” he said. “I have a book written about 20 years ago called ‘Why Kids Lie.’ It’s really all about my own experience with my children and their attempts to lie. I usually try to reassure people that I can only understand them if I can see them on video–which is a lie.”
Roth, who is terrific as the human lie detector, says even he gets freaked out around Ekman. “I pretend I’ve left something in my jacket: ‘I’ve got to go.’ It’s like traveling with a critic with the New York Times. Wherever you go, there’s a guy going, ‘No, I don’t believe you. The performance was terrible.’ ‘But I only said I’m going to the toilet.’ ‘Well, I don’t believe you. You betrayed the fact that you are completely urine free.'”
I asked the producer if it helpful to have an expert on lying on your side when you walk into a network meeting to pitch a series.
Executive producer David Nevins says too many TV deals are done over the phone these days. “I find it terrible because I absolutely –I want to sit in the room and see who I’m pitching to, whether they are getting it, whether they are understanding it. And the phone, there’s a lot of techniques that I’ve learned from the show and from reading about Dr. Ekman that you can learn things over the phone, but it’s far less effective than sitting face-to-face.”
Added fellow executive producer Samuel Baum: “And that’s why my agents will only deal with me on the phone now.”
Lie to Me premieres tomorrow night at 9 p.m. on Global and Fox.

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