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TV News

The Best TV You're Not Watching: 'Lights Out'

By:
Mar 16, 2011 | 11:30am EDT

Lights OutLights Out operates under the tagline, "Everybody loves a comeback," and, well, that's what it's about. It follows Patrick "Lights" Leary, five years after retirement, as he deals with an onslaught of problems. He's broke, fighting dementia and struggling to raise three teenage girls. He misses his old life. So much so that he decides to return for one last fight -- no matter the cost.

Why You're Not Watching

Boxing Is A Tough Sell

In Lights Out, even though Lights was the heavyweight champion, not too many people know who he is. That applies to real life, as well. Unfortunately, boxing just doesn't have the mass-appeal that it used to. These days, we have UFC or, dare I say it, professional wrestling as a replacement. Plus, even the show isn't exactly about boxing, but it's promoted as such. Maybe I'm generalizing a little here, but fans who usually watch serialized dramas aren't necessarily the biggest sports fans. So when it comes to a serialized drama about sports, some fans may be thinking, "No thanks." (Another show that dealt with this problem was Friday Night Lights.)

We're Not Going To Lie, It's Slow, Sometimes Ridiculously So

The numbers show that in general, television viewers aren't really interested in serialized dramas. Critics like me tend to love them, but on the whole, it's difficult to grab your everyday, casual television viewer for an engrossing, emotional hour every week. Plus, when a show moves as slowly as Lights Out does, it's easy to get bored. Not everybody wants to commit to a television show that requires more dedication than some relationships. Some folks would rather just spend their evenings watching multi-camera sitcoms. And there's nothing wrong with that. After all, it's tiring when you put your emotions through a cheese grater every week.

It's Got Some Stiff Competition

Look across the board, there's some really great television these days -- especially in the world of serialized dramas. On AMC alone, you have three of the top hour-long dramas in the genre: Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. Plus, look at FX's other shows: Rescue Me, Sons of Anarchy and Justified. As a television critic, it's hard enough to watch every show that's considered "good" every week, so I'm guessing the average viewer probably doesn't have time to sit down for an hour every night to enjoy what could be their next favorite show either.

Lights OutWhat You're Missing

Patrick "Lights" Leary Is A More Interesting Character Than Don Draper, and Don Draper Is Really, Really Interesting

Mad Men is great, don't get me wrong. But if you like Mad Men, there's no doubt that you'll love Lights Out. I don't want to write that Lights is exactly like Don Draper, but they are similar characters. Like Don, he's mysterious yet approachable, he's good at what he does and he's kind of an asshole -- but a likable asshole. Even though Lights wears boxing gloves instead of skinny ties, the two go through similar struggles, struggles that we as the audience can be sympathetic towards and simultaneously wonder what the fuck they're doing.

It Is and Isn't About Boxing

As much as the show is about boxing, it's really not. Sure, it's the centerpiece of the show -- and it's who Lights is -- but below the surface, there's so much more to what boxing means for the drama. It's like what advertising is to Mad Men. Sure, Don Draper knows advertising. He knows the game, knows what works and what doesn't, but ultimately, the show isn't about advertising. It's about Don Draper and how he operates. The same goes for Lights Out. Lights knows the world of boxing, but the show doesn't spend its time focusing on that part of Lights' life. Instead, it centers on how all of those aspects come together with the other parts of his life -- his family, his money, his aspirations -- and what all of that means.

It Looks The Way A Show About Boxing Should Look, Without Copying Rocky

Lights Out has a definite rugged feel, yet it doesn't rely on what some call "cheap," hand-held camera tricks found in other gritty dramas. It's a difficult thing to describe, but when you're watching an episode of the show, you know you're watching Lights Out. Everything, from the characters to how they walk to the cars they drive, feels like a gym bag stuffed with old, worn boxing gloves.

The Bottom Line:

If you enjoy being entertained, you will enjoy Lights Out. Plus, it's really important that as fans of television, we support the networks that continue to produce great TV. Beyond Lights Out, FX has given us It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Archer, Louie, Rescue Me, and countless other critically-acclaimed comedies and dramas. Unfortunately, at the same time, the network can't figure out how to market some of its shows (Terriers, anyone?) so as viewers, we need to make it our responsibility to find good television and more importantly, watch it. So now that you know that Lights Out isn't just a TV-import of Rocky, but rather a deep, psychological examination of a man at a breaking point in his life, you have no excuse but to tune in for the rest of the season and help save this show from cancellation.

Lights Out airs on FX on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST.

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