Friday, April 08, 2022

Would I Lie to You?, on CW

There was a time when gameshows featured panelists like Dorothy Kilgallen and Bennett Cerf, who would have been welcomed at any proper society dinner party. Then the Quiz Show scandal happened and game shows started to lean into dumb. The level of intelligence improved when they started recruiting comedians, who can at least think on their feet. This latest bit of primetime gameplay is based on a long-running British series, but it is also sort of a throwback to the original To Tell the Truth. However, there are no average Joe contestants nor money at stake. Only pride and bragging rights are on the line in Would I Lie to You?, which premieres Saturday on the CW.

The format is pretty simple. Celebrity contestants take turns reading a purportedly true anecdote from their lives off a note card, allowing the opposing team to ask questions to determine whether it is the truth or a lie. Eventually, in a later round, each team member tries to explain their unlikely connection to a prop-person, staring out at the camera with a blank expression—and again only one of them is telling the truth.

Frankly, based on the first three episodes, the host, Aasif Mandvi (who was great in the series
Evil) is the funniest of all the participants, so far. On the other hand, it is rather telling former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s internal lie-detector only works about 50% of the time, at best—but that doesn’t necessarily mean his team didn’t still win, not that it really matters.

Of the two regular team captains, Matt Walsh’s drier style of humor works much better in this format than that of Sabrina Jalees. Their team members tend to be either comedians or Broadway performers, presumably those who happened to be available for a quick taping. There are some okay ad-libs,
Would I Lie is not likely to overshadow Whose Line is it Anyway (of course, that show’s long run on the CW is probably why they greenlit Lie). (Maybe they can try adapting Cluedo next, derived from the board game Clue, which featured Tom Baker as Prof. Plum and Joanna Lumley as Mrs. Peacock.)

I’ve never reviewed a gameshow before, so here it is. Nobody won any Turtle Wax, so that was vaguely disappointing. Obviously, it is meant to be a lightweight distraction, which it is, but its long-term success probably depends on how cheaply it can be produced. Unless you have a great deal of nostalgia for the British source,
Would I Lie to You? is nothing you need to make an appreciable effort to watch when it premieres Saturday night (4/9).