Friday, January 14, 2011

Pilot Review: Lights Out

Lights Out (FX)
Premiered January 11 at 10pm

FX has a reputation for producing top-notch television. The first seasons of “The Shield,” “Rescue Me,” “Nip/Tuck,” “Sons of Anarchy”, “Thief,” “Justified,” and “The Riches” constitute some of the best TV I’ve ever seen, and therefore I always have high hopes for FX’s new fare. I’ve found that their comedies are not at all my cup of tea, and I couldn’t getting into the highly-acclaimed and recently cancelled “Terriers.” FX’s latest effort is certainly more accessible and energetic than its previous drama, and I’m intrigued to learn more about this particular protagonist. I’m especially excited by the idea of having someone like Holt McCallany, who hasn’t traditionally had leading roles, play the part of the fighter since he seems believable and appropriately tough. It’s like a television version of “The Wrestler” that doesn’t cut to black after two hours but instead goes on week after week, following its main character through his trials and tribulations. The scene in the pilot that I found most moving was the one where Lights dropped by someone’s home, ate his food, and then demanded he pay him. The part of Roger, the unlucky guy who owed money, was played expertly by Christopher Shyer, better known as Marcus on “V,” showing some human three-dimensionality, emotion, and fear here. The fight outside the bar was also pretty compelling, and I think that Lights is a strong character. There’s a renewed sense of purpose of focus for him now since he has plans to take on his biggest challenger, and I think that should prove to be an intriguing running subplot as Lights has to deal with getting back in the good graces of his wife and daughters. I’m not entirely sold yet, but my interest has definitely been piqued.

How will it work as a series? As a cable show (and an FX show), it’s going to be pretty run-of-the-mill (for FX programming, I mean), featuring his greater quest on the backburner each episode and some episodic problems for him to put energy into in the meantime. It’s unclear how the fighting will mix into it all, and also how focused on the present rather than the past the show will be. I think it should be interesting, but it might be hard to permeate if the other characters don’t get a chance to develop themselves.
How long will it last? The ratings for the pilot were similar to those of “Terriers,” which got axed despite glowing praise. If this show doesn’t step it up, it could be problematic. I think one season might be just right for this show, especially since the network has enough other hits that it shouldn’t be a problem to let one go. A renewal could happen, but I wouldn’t count on it just yet.

Pilot grade: B

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