Why SundanceTV’s LIAR is important in the peak TV landscape

Ioan Gruffudd as Andrew Earlham, Joanne Froggatt as Laura Nielson – Liar _ Season 1, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Two Brothers Pictures/ITV/SundanceTV via Sundance Press Site

SundanceTV’s new 6-part thriller LIAR could be the next critically acclaimed event and it’s asking all the right questions. So what is it that makes this show stand out among the TV series elite?

There are so many TV shows to watch across multiple platforms. And there’s a lot of noise from everyone exclaiming their favorite show is the best and why you have to watch it. Amid all the excellent options to choose from there’s this elitist attitude about certain shows and channels. Often the snobbery (myself included) regarding different series coincides with them getting major award show buzz and garnering the network those coveted golden statues. That’s not to say that these shows haven’t earned their critical acclaim.

Usually centered around some social or moral issue that fans can get passionate about. And just when it seems like we’ve reached the summit – and it’s all down hill from here there’s some new show that manages to up the ante year after year. It’s sometimes difficult to determine what the next big thing will be but it’s not difficult to figure out why that show stands out. Sundance has thrown their hat into the peak TV ring and LIAR is a defining series for the network.

LIAR‘s timeliness after HBO’s Big Little Lies swept the limited series category is probably just coincidence but don’t be surprised if this is the 2018 Emmy Awards’ next critically acclaimed TV event! Centered around one particular event the official synopsis for the series states:

LIAR, introduces Laura Nielson (Joanne Froggatt), a bright and dedicated teacher, and Andrew Earlham (Ioan Gruffudd), a renowned surgeon whose son is a student at Laura’s school. After a seemingly innocent date, a series of volatile accusations capsize their lives. Secrets and lies slowly unravel in a tense and gripping series where everyone is lying in some way until the truth ultimately reveals itself.

Ioan Gruffudd as Andrew Earlham, Joanne Froggatt as Laura Nielson – Liar _ Season 1, Episode 3 – Photo Credit: Joss Barratt/Two Brothers Pictures/ITV/SundanceTV via Sundance Press Site

I have to be honest. When I first heard the title of the SundanceTV six-episode, taut psychological thriller, I was concerned. The trailer does exactly what it intends, creating all kinds of questions. But it’s unfortunate that my first instinct about the series was fear. I was worried that a show whose main draw was the events after a seemingly fine date was maybe not in the best taste. Consider for a moment the fact that most of the recent major drama categories featured a nomination for a show and/or characters who were being sexually assaulted. It’s not really that shocking, female agency and autonomy are topics that are constantly being parsed out. It’s an important conversation that needs to continue to be had but it’s hard not to wonder why is TV so obsessed with rape?

It’s sad that my first inclination about LIAR was that the series was going to try to make a statement about subverting the idea of sexual assault because really, the last thing we need to do is start questioning women on the validity of the assaults they suffer (especially based on trivial things like what someone is wearing and how much they had to drink). The reality is the title of the show is operating on two levels. One is that everyone is a liar and the other is those who are branded liars, the distinction being that those who are lying and those who are being labeled liars not mutually exclusive. And when it comes to rape, it is never just about the act itself but the past and present and every little mistake made in-between that can lessen the validity of the accusation.

Much like Big Little Lies we are only getting the story in pieces. And similarly to Broadchurch – another series in the crime/thriller genre which tackled the subject in its third and final season –LIAR isn’t subverting the narrative. It’s leaning into it by allowing Laura to take back her control in the same way Gone Girl pushed psychological limits. But all of this is precisely what makes the show so important. It toys with its viewers in the same way it toys with the ideas of victimization, emotional instability, and why we’re so deeply ingrained to trust the powerful, good-looking man who convincingly claims he would never do such a thing.

The crux of it is not one lie or that one particular person is a liar. It is that if everyone is lying then the story has less to with who to trust and who you believe and everything to do with the motives. LIAR isn’t asking you to pick a side or to compromise our moral beliefs (though it does make you think hard about them). Also the series isn’t after the answer to the truth, though that come with the territory. Through the unraveling of everything but LIAR is after one fundamental thing, what makes a liar?

So trust me on this one, you won’t want to miss a minute!

LIAR premieres Wednesday September 27th at 10/9 on SundanceTV. Tell the truth, Will you be tuning in?