Early TV Review: ‘Lights Out’ Isn’t Your Typical Boxing Drama

Take the family ideals of The Fighter, throw it in a blender with The Sopranos, sprinkle in a little of Michael Mann’s Ali camera work, hit start and voila, you have the brand new FX drama Light’s Out.

Lights Out focuses on retired boxer Patrick “Lights” Leary who has been out of the game for five years after being robbed of the Heavyweight Championship in his final match against sports rival “Death Row” Reynolds. Upon hearing that Leary can’t let a sleeping dog lie, Reynolds offers Leary a chance at a rematch. But that’s only the beginning of his troubles.

Perhaps the show’s greatest advantage over films of the same topic is the long form story telling that come with the territory of television. Often times, elements like the boxers training, and exhibition matches before the big comeback fight are either quickly thrown in (Cinderella Man) or skipped all together. But because Lights Out needs to fill episodes, we get to spend a lot of time with Leary during his rise back to the top.

But above all else, the one thing I really want to emphasize about Lights Out, is that it shouldn’t be identified as a “boxing show.” Similar to Zombieland’s use of the man-eating creatures, or The Social Network’s use of Facebook, Lights Out uses the sport as a backdrop to an extremely character driven show. Some of the episodes don’t even contain boxing matches.

The show borders on gangster drama half the time anyway. At many moments in the first five episodes at least, Leary or one of his family members seem to be in trouble with some form of organized crime. Not to mention the Leary Family’s money troubles which come to light in the very beginning of the pilot.

As for the quality of the episodes, my biggest issue is that the first two really drag their feet. But, once you get to episode three, the show just takes off. There are numerous compelling story lines that anyone can relate to in these troubled times (granted not all of us have participated in an MMA fight before).

As far as the acting goes, I think the most unsung hero of this series is going to be Leary’s father played by Stacy Keach. Keach had a really strong decade during the 00’s with hit shows like Titus and Prison Break. My hope is that this decade with provide him with (what will mostly likely be) his last great performance. But that isn’t to say the rest of the cast doesn’t hold their own.

Holt McCallany packs a punch with his performance as Lights Leary. He really brings a sense of gravitas to the show that will make people want to tune in every week. The same can be said for Catherine McCormack and Pablo Schreiber who play Leary’s wife and brother respectively. Both of them go through their own unique changes as the series progresses, and at least by episode five, you’ll be sucked into the lives of both their characters.

All in all, Lights Out is a very well written drama. I wouldn’t go in expecting your typical comeback story though. While that story line is used to kick off the series, this is really a show about family, crime, and the dangers of overstaying your welcome.

Be sure to check out Lights Out when it premiers on FX at 10pm on 1/11/11 (cool isn’t it).

And be sure to check back here at FSR for weekly coverage of the series.

From a young age, TV guru Merrill Barr has been obsessed with the small screen. And one day he decided to put that obsession to good use.

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