Tag Archives: Stacy Keach

Lights Out for Lights Out

FX, why do you do this to me?

You promote a series heavily and I watch it and get invested in its characters, and then you kill it. FX announced that it has cancelled the freshman boxing drama Lights Out, only two episodes away from the end of the first season (a new episode airs tonight). Bad ratings? I guess the judges’ cards will show that Patrick “Lights Out” Leary lost on points.

The cast has been almost uniformly excellent, featuring a breakout performance from Holt McCallany and strong support from Stacy Keach, Pablo Schreiber, Catherine McCormack and Billy Brown (as conflicted champ “Death Row” Reynolds). Reg E. Cathey (like Schreiber, an alum of The Wire) dazzles as Don King inspired promoter Barry Word, and guest roles have been showcases for powerful actors like Bill Irwin, Eamonn Walker and the great David Morse. Sure, the teenage girls are a bit annoying, but isn’t that also realistic?

If there was a weak point, perhaps it was the strong focus upon Leary’s drive to get another shot at the title, a plot element that has been accelerated to at such a rapid pace that we are almost upon it after eleven episodes. I don’t know if they planned to have the fight take place by the end of the season or planned to make the fight the centerpiece of the next season – I guess I’ll find out in a week – but after he either wins or loses, it would appear that the momentum would shift. Of course, if you don’t have a strong and fast pace you’ll get cancelled for that, too.

Unlike Terriers, which suffered from a ridiculous marketing campaign, people knew exactly what they were tuning in for. It’s just sad that there are so many more people who want to watch celebretards cat fight or try to dance.

Welcome to America, 2011.

At least FX picked up Justified and Louie for second seasons. Here’s hoping they don’t screw that up.

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Lights Out!

It appears that FX has done it again.

Lights Out is a 13-episode story about Patrick “Lights Out” Leary, a former heavyweight champ who retired five years before but still has the itch. Not the itch an Evander Holyfield feels, a twitch in a man who doesn’t know when to quit, but a guy who walked away from it all after a controversial split decision stalled his career. His corner, including his trainer father, urged him to back off in the final round and win on points instead of going for the knockout. His med student wife, stitching him up in the dressing room after one too many beatings, tells him to make a choice between the ring and the family.  

He followed his family’s advice on both counts, but the decisions haunt him daily. Outwardly he tries to play the happily retired guy, cooking breakfast for his daughters and helping out at the gym, and you can see that he has talked himself into accepting this. But his world starts to crash – finances are not what they seem, his family lives far beyond their means, and by the time he realizes that the slope is slippery, it’s too late. No longer the champ, suffering the slight but initial effects of brain damage, he’s a square peg outside the ring. And the offers he’s getting to generate a little cash are anything but above-board. (Yes, he lives in Bayonne, New Jersey…)

Lights is played by Holt McCallany, whose very name infers toughness. One article compared his performance to the first time you saw James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano or Jon Hamm as Don Draper. A bit early for canonization, but I don’t think even the most ebullient is trying to place this show on a mantle alongside The Sopranos or Mad Men. Rather they are correctly noting that the lead actor has that instant charisma and natural charm; a presence that exudes mystery, power and secrets. Even if he might not literally be a good guy, you are (ahem) in his corner from the first scene. Like the aforementioned famous actors, McCallany has been banging around for a while, but seemingly has stumbled into the role of a lifetime. He is pitch-perfect as the man lost outside his comfort zone; juggling debt, health issues, self-doubt and the undesirable elements that circle that world.

I have rarely seen as many online ads for a new TV show as I have for Lights Out this week; perhaps FX is trying to make up for the disastrous campaign for Terriers. That show – almost universally recognized as excellent – had to build from almost nothing thanks to the symbolic but misleading promos.

I’ve only seen the pilot episode – I’m not the “A-list” guy who gets an advance 5-pack from the network – but it’s clearly way deeper than “a boxing series”. If it stays this good, you can file it alongside Justified, Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy as another edgy, daring television show made for adults. Adults who are approached as intelligent viewers who can follow the threads and nuances of the characters and the plot. I hope enough viewers return the favor and step up to the challenge.

Or you can always Live To Dance.

Episode Guide at TV.COM

Official website at FX watch the excellent backstory video

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