God damn it, why aren’t you animals watching the FX boxing drama “Lights Out”? It’s one of the best new dramas on television. Granted, most of this season’s new dramas were garbage, but so what? That’s par for the course. Besides, from the looks of it, most people would rather watch garbage than quality television.
For those of you who haven’t been watching (which is to say most of you), “Lights Out” tells the story of retired boxer Patrick ‘Lights’ Leary (Holt McCallany). Once the heavyweight champ, Leary walked away from the sport while still in his prime in order to be with his family. Five years later, he’s still haunted by the thought of what could have been. To make matters worse, he was recently diagnosed with a neurological disorder likely brought on by his years in the ring. However, when the bad economy and his brother’s mounting gambling debts wipe out his savings, Leary is forced to once again put on his gloves despite the symptoms.
Granted, the show isn’t perfect. First of all, the story is about a 40-year old white boxer who is coming out of retirement to make another run at the championship. There are so many things wrong with that scenario that I can’t even begin to make sense of it. Also, Leary’s daughter Ava is totally hot, and I really want to bang her. This isn’t a bad thing, except she’s still in high school, and I feel like a real creep. Granted, the actress who plays her (Meredith Hagner) is in her 20’s, but still, I feel like a perv. OK, that’s my problem, not the show’s.
But even with these minor flaws, “Light’s Out” is solid. It’s well written, well acted, and leaves you wanting more. Sure, some of it’s not realistic, but it’s still a hell of a lot more believable than CSI, NCSI, M4M, or any of the other crap that passes for drama on the big networks. Sure, maybe the idea of an old, white boxer is far fetched. But is it any worse than the idea of the Las Vegas Police Department using expensive super science to catch a guy who killed a hooker? I think not.
Throughout the show, the character development has been compelling and believable. Holt McCallany does a great job balancing his character’ drive to fight with his desire to do what’s best for his family. Catherine McCormack plays Leary’s wife Theresa. A lesser actress would have come across as a nagging harpy, but McCormack comes across as a stong yet genuinely concerned wife. Pablo Schreiber, who you might remember from season 2 of “The Wire,” plays Leary’s flawed, gambling addict brother Johnny, but still manages to give the character a genuine likability. Even when his antics put everyone at risk, it’s understood that Johnny still loves and cares for his family. Rounding out the cast is Stacy Keach as the family patriarch. Honestly, what else do I have to say? It’s Stacy f*cking Keach. He’s great.
While the show doesn’t shy away from the violence inherent in the sport, it manages to avoid going overboard. Aside from a rather unbelievable underground cage match, the fights thus far have been well choreographed and plausible. That goes for fights both in and out of the ring. When a desperate Leary agrees to act as muscle for a bookie, we don’t even know a fight transpired until well after the fact, and we are shown in a split second flashback. Considering the show is geared toward a young, male audience, the fact that the producers have shown restraint in this regard is somewhat remarkable.
But despite the quality of the writing and the strong characters, week after week, “Lights Out” continues to struggle. While there are some exceptions, comparing a basic cable show to a network program isn’t always fair. But even if you leave out the networks, the viewing public has a lot to answer for. Last Tuesday, “Cup Cake Wars” received 1.170 million viewers. “What Not to Wear” got 1.148 million. “Hardcore Pawn,” a goddamn knock off of “Pawn Stars,” received 1.849 million viewers.
What did “Lights Out” get? Only 0.742 million viewers, and that was an improvement of over 40,000 from the week before.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, how can a critically acclaimed show expect to grow an audience when 4 million viewers are busy watching some teenage skanks “raise” their bastard children on MTV’s “Teen Mom 2”? Jesus Christ, if I wanted to watch some fat high school sophomore push her stupid kid around in a stroller, I’d go hang out at the mall. But I guess I’m out of touch, and knocked-up teens are what sell.
Writers for “Lights Out” take note: it’s time to get Ava pregnant. I volunteer.