By Ken Tucker
Updated January 14, 2009 at 05:00 AM EST
Mike Yarish/FOX

In Lie to Me, Tim Roth plays Dr. Cal Lightman, a scientist specializing in decoding facial expressions and body language. He’s bursting with fun facts, asserting that there are, on average, ”three lies per 10 minutes of conversation.” Like Monk and Psych and The Mentalist, Lie offers us an eccentric who’s brought in by law enforcement to solve crimes. He’s got a British accent, so we know he’s intelligent and a bit dotty. And he’s got an attractive female associate (The Practice‘s Kelli Williams) who’s also full of fun facts: ”In a fake smile, there’s no eye-wrinkling.”

Naturally, Dr. Lightman encounters skeptics who call him a ”carnival act”; just as naturally, he proves them wrong. Lie to Me is derivative yet well crafted, predictable yet ever-so-slightly novel (all those new fun facts!), so it’s no wonder that Fox thinks it’s got itself a potential hit worthy of post?American Idol time-period status. And yet, I wonder: Roth is a familiar ’90s film face (Pulp ?Fiction, Rob Roy) whose career was ripe for a TV series. But is America ready to take this broody Brit — not cuddly like Monk or lovably cranky like House — to its ? bosom? Personally, I’m ?glad Roth resists the cuddly/cranky. But if this review were a face, Dr. Lightman would say it had a forced smile: hopeful, but dubious, about Lie‘s chances. B?