Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lights Out - "Pilot"

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     Looking at all of the great reviews out there, I know I am going to get some flak for saying this - FX's Lights Outs pilot was boring. It really was. It wasn't the acting, which was fine. It wasn't even the boxing; despite my distaste for the sport, I enjoyed Rocky. I don't think I have any problem with slow pacing, though my negative opinion of Rubicon might make it look otherwise. The story was sweet enough, I guess. I love the network's other shows like Damages and Justified, so it's not the FX tone that bothers me. I was just bored with it.

     The story was about Patrick 'Lights' Leary (Holt McCallany), who gave up boxing five years ago at the insistence of his wife, Theresa (Catherine McCormack). Now, the money is dwindling, and he must consider some tough choices to support his family. His brother, Johnny (Pablo Schreiber), who manages his finances, has Patrick call BINGO numbers and play a heavy to bring in a little cash flow, but it's not enough. Apparently, the gym they own is a sinkhole, but they can't give it up because it would break their father's (Stacy Keach) heart. So Johnny tries to force Patrick back in the ring by letting a past opponent announce a fight on TV without Patrick's knowledge, angering both Patrick and Theresa. But is Patrick really that angry?

     I get the character of Patrick. I understand his frustration, his nostalgia over the days when he did something he loved, his deep adoration for his family, and need to be a provider. He's a fine character, and Holt can make Patrick wither a daughter's boyfriend, not to mention larger game, with a simple stare. As a character, I like Patrick a lot. But it wasn't enough to draw me in, and none of the other characters were painted quite as beautifully as Patrick was, at least not in the pilot.

     I guess that's why I found the first episode boring. With only Patrick interesting me all that much, the show dragged anytime he wasn't the focus of the scene. Yes, Patrick was constantly on screen, but he wasn't always the most animated person in each scene. Others just couldn't hold my attention. Plus, I feel like I've seen a Patrick before. In this day and age, the novelty of a tough guy also being a caring family man is gone. It's been done before. So I don't see anything to get super excited about. Yet.

     I really don't get the urgency of the money. Surely Patrick understood that when he quit fighting, resources would be limited. He had to have known roughly how long the nest egg would last, figuring in the cost of living. And if he didn't, Johnny would have. Sure, the gym may be slightly unpredictable, but Johnny should have made some kind of move earlier to salvage things. Johnny doesn't seem the type that would let such a thing go until it's too late, but that's exactly what has happened here. I don't like it. It seems contrived, a necessary element to propel the story forward, but not one that holds up if examined too closely.

     And I feel like certain things will be predictable. Patrick got in a fight with a guy outside the bar. Previews for the rest of the season showed him being arrested. Who wants to bet that the guy he beat up is pressing legal charges, even though he willingly accepted the fight? I could be wrong, but if I'm not, it's lazy writing.

     Which doesn't mean I won't watch at least one more episode. FX has a solid enough track record that I will give it a little more time. Plus, the critics who were raving about the series may have seen more episodes. That's my best explanation for their praise, as I didn't see a worthy subject in the pilot. I guess I just don't want to miss out on another success like Sons on Anarchy, which I sadly didn't watch simply because I wasn't interested in biker gangs. I regret that decision now, and hope to eventually get to the DVDs.

     As a Keach fan from his days on Prison Break, I am looking forward to seeing Pops figure more into the story. Surely, he has opinions of the mess his boys have gotten themselves, and likely him, into. The few moments of him we got, I can't believe he'd passively sit by and just watch things happen without wanting to do, or make someone do, something about it.

     Whatever my opinions, I am sure there are plenty of people who enjoyed the show. I'll watch next week's before I do anything drastic, like give up on it. Lights Out airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.

Article first published as TV Review: Lights Out - "Pilot" on Blogcritics.

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