Brian Grazer exec producing TV drama

Fox is prepping a January launch for “Lie to Me,” an hourlong drama series starring Tim Roth as a man with the innate ability to read whether people are telling the truth.

Net has officially picked up a 13-episode order. Roth stars as Dr. Cal Lightman, a specialist who can read the human face, body and voice and determine, more accurately than any polygraph, whether the person in front of him is lying.

“Lie to Me” is set to start shooting in November. Scribes have already got a jump on production; Fox had earlier ordered several scripts in addition to the pilot, allowing series creator Sam Baum and his team a chance to generate several more stories.

“This is a very important piece of the puzzle for us,” said Fox Entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly. “We’ve got big plans for this year, and it was important that this one came together. It’s that very elusive but fundamental thing we’re looking for: a commercially viable franchise that can generate five-plus years for us.”

In the show penned by Baum, Roth’s character is contracted by the FBI, local police, corporations and others to aid in investigations. Kelli Williams stars as Dr. Gillian Foster, Lightman’s partner; cast also includes Brendan Hines and Monica Raymund.

Imagine TV and 20th Century Fox TV are behind the show, which is loosely based on the real-life exploits of psychologist Paul Ekman, who’s considered an expert in the science of facial micro-expressions.

Brian Grazer said he’s been fascinated by Ekman since reading about his work. Baum, meanwhile, had also been doing his own research about so-called human lie detectors.

Imagine eventually caught wind of Baum’s interest, and the two sides eventually merged their ideas into “Lie to Me.”

Baum and Grazer will exec produce, along with Imagine TV topper David Nevins and Steve Maeda. Robert Schwentke directed the pilot.

“This is a sign that developing out of the traditional development cycle can have its benefits,” said 20th Century Fox TV chairman Gary Newman. “In a different year we might have jammed this show into (the last) pilot season. But it took us quite a bit of time to land Tim. And because we had backup scripts in the works early on, we’re just starting preproduction with several very good stories already in the mix.”

Gig reps the first TV regular series role for Roth, who will keep his British accent for the role (a rarity for U.K. thesps in U.S. shows).

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