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Pilot Inspektor: Showtime's "Dexter"

One of the perks of working in the television business is that you occasionally (or during the summer months frequently) get to see pilots before they air on television... in most cases, many months before they premiere. So yesterday I was therefore fortunate to view the pilot for Showtime's new drama series, Dexter, based on the novels by Jeff Lindsay.

Dexter stars Michael C. Hall, whom most viewers will remember from Six Feet Under. Here, Hall portrays the title character who is vastly different from David Fisher, the character he played for several years on Six Feet Under...well, except for the connection to death. For one thing, Dexter is a forensic investigator--his specialty is blood splatter--and for another, he's a serial killer.

But before you get all uptight about it, he's a serial killer who only kills other serial killers. Gruesomely. Brutally. He stalks them, captures them, and kills them, chopping up their bodies and disposing of them while holding onto a keepsake--a bit of their blood preserved in scientific glass slides--for a trophy? Research? His modus operandi is explained in a nifty bit of flashback as we see Dexter as a child, caught by his police officer father killing animals. We know that something traumatic happened to Dexter before he was taken in by this family and Dad knows that Dexter will kill again. He can't change his nature. But if he can teach him who to kill, and how, and how not to get caught... It's a secret that only they can share.

Now, many years later, Dexter works as a forensic expert with the same Miami police force that his dad--now long dead; same with mom--worked on, the same force that his foul-mouthed adopted sister Debra (The Exorcism of Emily Rose's Jennifer Carpenter) works as a vice cop. Sis wants to get transfered off of vice and onto the homicide division and often uses Dexter's insight into bizarre murders to attempt to advance her career. In fact, she calls him in on a really bizarre case, in which a someone is murdering women, chopping them up without, wrapping the parts up like gifts, and reassembling them at a scene... all without any blood. Dexter immediately knows it's a serial killer and he begins to become drawn into the killer's mind, as the two play a twisted cat-and-mouse game that's not resolved in the pilot.

Everyone on the police force loves Dexter--he's charming, erudite, and polite--but there's one particularly gruff cop (OZ's Eric King) who for some reason senses that Dexter is not what he appears to be. Completely taken in, however, is Dexter's single mom girlfriend Rita (Buffy's Julie Benz), who is almost as messed up as Dexter is. After her rape by her philandering husband, Rita contracted some nasty venereal disease, which means she is not into sex at all. Which is fine with Dexter, because he finds the very idea of sex to be discomforting. So they're the perfect match for one another and Dexter is so good with her kids. Little does she know that she's invited one of the deadliest killers into her heart and home...

And remember that serial killer that Dexter is stalking? Turns out he's one step ahead of Dex.

Dexter's cast is first rate. Hall is simply amazing as Dexter; he can be completely charming and wittily funny one second and then icy and deadly the next. Hall completely embodies the character of Dexter without making any judgement calls about this moral ambiguous character, which is a very difficult feat to pull off. Benz is beautifully fragile and vulnerable as Rita, demonstrating a real change from the tough and/or deadly characters she usually plays (Darla on Buffy and Angel, an FBI agent on Roswell). Carpenter's police officer both grounds Dexter and gives him someone to almost care about (if he were capable of real emotion) and injects some humor with her temper and sailor's mouth. Setting the story in Miami provides a sweltering background as well as a never-ending supply of crimes (which helps Dexter get away with his own).

My only problem with the show in fact is that I've heard that writer Jim Manos (writer previously on The Shield and The Sopranos) has been removed from the show because the network wants to play up the comedy angle more. Um, hello? It's a show about a serial killer who gruesomely does away with other serial killers while solving truly heinous crimes for the police. How light and fluffy can this concept be? I thought that Manos totally nailed the dark humor and morbid curiosity of Dexter's character and created a taut, compelling crime drama that me on the edge of my seat.

Ultimately, killing the tone that Manos deftly created is a crime that even Dexter would take issue with.

"Dexter" is expected to air on Showtime beginning in November.

What’s On Tonight

8 pm: Ghost Whisperer (CBS); Tim McGraw: Reflected (NBC); Survival of the Richest (WB); America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC); The Bernie Mac Show/The Bernie Mac Show (FOX); WWE Friday Night SmackDown! (UPN)

9 pm: Close to Home (CBS); Las Vegas (NBC); Reba/Modern Men (WB); America's Funniest Home Videos (ABC); Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy (FOX)

10 pm: NUMB3RS (CBS); Conviction (NBC); 20/20 (ABC)

What I’ll Be Watching

6-8 pm: High Spirits with Shirley Ghostman/Little Britain/Creature Comforts.

My new Friday night routine: the psychic parody High Spirits with Shirley Ghostman (whose fake Spirit Academy competition has reached new lows), outrageous sketch comedy Little Britain (home to Lou, Andy, Vicky Pollard, and the rest of the gang), and documentary series Creature Comforts.

9 pm: Doctor Who.

Otherwise known as Part Two of last week's two-part episode. On tonight's installment ("World War Three"), the Doctor and Rose attempt to escape 10 Downing Street as the world heads towards an interplanetary war with the creepy Slitheen. And what's up with that "Bad Wolf" graffiti and the little pig?


Anonymous said…
my name is Sam and my daddy works on Dexter. My daddy likes the show.
Anonymous said…
One of the best shows i've ever seen but i didn't like the drama in the last doesen of episoeds :(

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