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Light's Out


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An improbably and tremendously entertaining new FX drama from “The Bucket List” screenwriter Justin Zackham and (starting with the second episode) “In Treatment” showrunner Warren Leight, “Lights Out” follows a Irish-American New Jersey boxer drawn out of retirement by pride and looming insolvency.


It is not to be confused with acclaimed big screen effort “The Fighter,” the tale of an Irish-American Massachusetts boxer drawn out of retirement by pride and looming insolvency. (Even though in both projects the pugilist finds himself undone by the efforts of a wayward brother.)


“Lights” stars Holt McCallany (“CSI Miami,” “The Losers”), Catherine McCormack (“Braveheart,” “28 Weeks Later”), Stacy Keach (“Prison Break,” “W.”), Pablo Schreiber (Nick Sobotka from “The Wire”), Reg E. Cathey (Warden Querns from “Oz” and Norman Wilson from “The Wire”) and the great Bill Irwin (“Rachel Getting Married”).


McCallany’s character, Patrick “Lights” Leary, puts me in the mind of Michael Madsen’s character in “Kill Bill,” only without all the evil. (If you blur your eyes Lights even looks a little like a hatless Sidewinder in the long shots.) He also reminds of Raylan Givens over on FX’s other winter 2011 hourlong, “Justified.” And there’s also more than a passing resemblance to the likes of Billy Jack and Chili Palmer and that Dalton guy Patrick Swayze played in “Road House.” Lights is a hero possessed of a great badassery, and he bends over backward to keep in check his ability to pummel those richly deserving of pummel. But sometimes. Sometimes.


My expectations for this series were not the greatest. I’m the last guy you’d expect to like a boxing drama. I’ve not seen the “The Bucket List,” but it only earned 26% percent positive reviews on “Rotten Tomatoes.” Not all the reviews for “Lights Out” are positive.


But I tell you: “Lights Out” is money in the entertainment bank. I laughed (and laughed hard at one reveal of Leary’s hand). I got excited. I think the forces that drive Leary back to the ring are resonant and credible. And the cast assembled – particularly McCallany and Irwin, doing something brilliantly I’ve not seen him do before – demonstrates the producers know what they’re doing.


I did not find the pilot pokey, but if you do, be sure to pay close attention to the last 15 minutes or so, and thank me later.




The New York Times says:


… a first-rate series … a cleverly updated version of the “Rocky” story, but with other dimensions that appeal to viewers — male and female — who don’t give a fig about the sweet science. … even the soapier subplots of “Lights Out” are sparingly written and tautly filmed, and the story never strays too far from the violence that is at its core.

The Los Angeles Times says:


… It is something shy of electrifying and not always convincing, but it pulls you right along and offers too many good moments and fine performances not to recommend it.

The Washington Post says:


… heartfelt if occasionally sluggish … Though deliberately and even artfully paced, "Lights Out" also feels protracted. It has difficulty establishing momentum in its first few episodes, even with a smattering of intriguing subplots and story lines, and no one character exerts that intangible ability to make us keep watching. Patrick "Lights" Leary is something to see in the ring, but he's better and more watchable in the kitchen and on carpool duty. I guess that means I side with his wife: It's time to hang up the gloves.


The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:


… another creative success for FX … McCallany brings an underlying warmth to Leary that's somewhat unexpected. You figure a boxer will have a temper, but Leary manages to hold his anger in check several beats longer than fighters usually do in filmed entertainment.


The San Francsico Chronicle says:


… may not reach the level of "The Sopranos," but it has enough going for it to at least earn a shot at the title. …

HitFix says:


… Very little of "Lights Out" feels particularly novel. Boxing movies have been around forever, and this set-up in particular has an awful lot in common with the unfortunate fifth "Rocky" movie. But thanks to the sharp writing of Warren Leight and a revelatory lead performance by obscure journeyman actor Holt McCallany, "Lights Out" is a reminder of why Hollywood keeps making boxing stories. Because when they're done well, they're irresistible. …


The Boston Herald says:


… clocks you with you so many cliches, you might end up with a concussion. … “Lights Out’s” predictable arc is all the more disappointing given that the series replaces the far superior “Damages” on FX’s card. …


The Boston Globe says:


… ‘Lights Out’’ comes as a surprise to me, just as “Friday Night Lights’’ did back in 2006. It’s a boxing drama, but only in the way “FNL’’ is a football drama — mostly peripherally. “Lights Out’’ does include a few dynamically choreographed sequences in the ring, with torn-up men dancing at each other as drops of blood and sweat spew artfully. But the series is primarily a portrait of a one-time heavyweight world champion getting hit with financial woes, physical issues, and family strain all at once. Think of it as “Champ of a Certain Age.’’ You really don’t need to be a fan of the sport to be a fan of the show. …


USA Today says:


… less than completely promising … after a so-so start, Lights Out does turn into a good series. A knockout? No. But sometimes, you have to be content to win on points.


The Hollywood Reporter says:


… immediately one of the most compelling dramas on television. … You can't take your eyes off McCallany, and in turn, Lights Out has a hook that comes out of nowhere.


Variety says:


… delivers a solid medley of punches, breaking little new ground but establishing its protagonist -- a retired champ named Patrick "Lights" Leary, played with gruff brio by Holt McCallany -- as a force to be reckoned with, facing the usual litany of problems. …

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