LIGHTS OUT “Pilot” Review

LIGHTS OUT (FX)

LIGHTS OUT “Pilot” Season 1 Episode 1 – The show opens with a face, bruised, bloody, lumpy; it has been beaten to a pulp. The man is lying on his back on a silver table under bright lights, bright enough for a pathologist to examine this specimen. His wife looks at him and barely manages to contain a sob. He is not in a morgue. He’s a boxer. This is Patrick “Lights” Leary (Holt McCallany) a heavyweight champion boxer.

Theresa is his wife and physicians’ assistant. She gave him an ultimatum after his losing fight with Reynolds (the results of which we see in the opening scene): keep fighting or lose his family. He chooses the latter, which puts his career into a tailspin for five years. Now he wants to climb back to champ status, just as she gets into a residency and qualifies as a doctor. Lights’ father blames Theresa for taking him out of the game just as he could have made it big. Now Lights is in over his head with problems with the IRS. His family gym is in debt; his brother Johnny is supporting him financially.

There are the daughters: they both ask for money, one for a bikini wax, the other for the new biography of Eleanor Roosevolt. The youngest girl is touchingly frightened by her father’s fighting past.

What I know of boxing has been gleaned from Rocky and The Fighter. This is not a problem however. Boxing is to Lights Out what gangs was to The Sopranos and gold to Deadwood. It is more than a MacGuffin, for it shapes the people in the story, but the story is still about the people.

Because this was the premiere, it was mostly centered around Lights: a wise move. Too many storylines, too many characters and the show becomes too confusing. However the characters on the periphery are potentially fascinating. From the daughters who could provide a wealth of drama (and who could all deliver lines convincingly, so cringe worthy child acting seems to have been avoided) to the brother Johnny who seems compelled to help despite his own personal misfortunes, Holt McCallany has the physique to pull off the character of Lights, and he brings a familiar likability to his character. Once a local legend, now he’s calling bingo at the local restaurant.

The best thing about this show is that Lights isn’t a dumb short tempered jock. He doesn’t have a heart of gold and fists of steel. He is calculating. The ways in which his character was written, and the way McCallany portrays him, were just brilliant. The editing; the quick flashes to violent, mean deeds, were thrilling. Unlike most pilots, this doesn’t blow events out of the water with heroic battles or life threatening situations. It’s collectedness, it’s resistance to drowning the audience with drama and action, makes the promise of a second, third, fourth and so on episode more appealing.

All in all, I thought it was an exceptional pilot, with a uniformly strong cast, particularly its lead and great writing. An exciting show I cannot wait to see more of.

What did you think of the pilot? Sound off in the comments below!

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