LAST NIGHT: TV reviews

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The Independent Culture
Angus Deayton is a likeable television performer - a welcome oasis of understatement in the whipped-up energy that characterises much TV presentation. But he is also a living demonstration of how far a well- managed facial expression will take you. The gesture in question got an early outing in The Lying Game (BBC1), a new series about deception. Deayton turns his head slightly in one direction, his eyes in the other direction and then he arches his eyebrows in a questioning manner. He does this quite often on Have I Got News for You, particularly when he can't immediately think of a snappy response to some casual insult from Paul Merton. And, indeed, the expression is effectively insinuating. It says something like "What I'm thinking is so witheringly scornful that I'm not even going to utter it aloud." You can practise this yourself - deployed with the right timing, it might even earn you a reputation as a scathing wit.

By Deayton's own rather broad definitions, I suppose you could describe this as a kind of facial lie. After all, this undemanding amble around themes of duplicity and deceit began with an ordinary working man who owned a Rolls-Royce, decidedly third division stuff as far as the lying game goes. Given that Alan had saved up to buy the car, his only sin was in not displaying a windscreen sticker that said "I'm just a shot- blaster really". Then again, Alan himself confessed to suggestio falsi, admitting that "I think it gets me things what I wouldn't normally get, things like access and respect." With perfectly timed cruelty, his closing words were played over footage of him bouncing off the glass door of an upmarket restaurant.

Dave Smith was a much less equivocal case - a gleeful character whose hobby consists of telling elaborate porkies to innocent third parties. As well as impersonating lottery winners and playing the last straw to a drowning football team, Dave had also scammed the Kilroy programme - offering himself as a repentant loan-collector, in which capacity he appeared in heavy disguise. Had this been his sole appearance, one might have felt some sympathy for the producers - how exactly would you go about checking the bona-fides of a leg-breaker? But when they asked him back in another capacity only a few weeks later, you couldn't help but feel they were getting just what they deserved. Dave insisted that his feeble-minded stunts weren't really duplicitous: "It's not lying, it's an act," he protested. "Would you call Jeremy Beadle a liar?" Well, no, I wouldn't, but I'm not sure he would greatly prefer the alternatives.

As this anecdotal collection suggests, The Lying Game potters along at just above the level of pub conversation, a bit of half-baked theorising bolstered with items of human interest that someone has remembered from a recent tabloid. And if you thought that the arrival of the forensic psychologist was going to up the stakes intellectually you would have been grievously disappointed: "You could think of them as people who are trying it on and trying to create an impression, and who have their needs met, their self-esteem enhanced, by having other people view them very positively," he said. In perhaps the most duplicitous moment in the programme, Deayton reacted as if the man had actually said something illuminating, rather than tritely paraphrasing what everyone (including the liars themselves) already knew.

There were more interesting sequences, to be fair - in particular, the travel agent who blagged his way into the Groucho Club by pretending to be Stanley Kubrick and the body language analysis of Dr Richard Wiseman, who had also constructed a polygraph which converted stress patterns into a little cartoon. If you tell the truth, a little fish swims across the screen and transforms itself into an angel. It was intriguing to note that when Deayton delivered the final link while wired up to this machine, the fish barely moved. Hard evidence - if we were to credit what had gone before - that he didn't believe a word he was saying.