The new FX original drama, “Lights Out”, had me caught at the trailer; suspenseful and enticing, it’s daring musical score dragging me in for more. The warning sign about it’s R rating was the first thing to meet me when I turned on my television, but I wasn’t really surprised – Fox was the channel hosting. That’s all you need to know to figure bad things are going to go down in a series of drama mixed with some good old fashioned boxing.
Lights Out began with a close up on the face of an unconscious main character, Patrick “Lights” Leary (Portrayed by Holt McCallany), broken, bruised, with a face that looked like he had dunked it in a smoothie grinder. Minus the blood, plus all the gashes and swelling. He’s laying on a medical table in the changing room, and the doctor’s assistant (Leary’s wife), Theresa, wakes him up, sews his eyelid shut, and, when he begins to talk about the rematch, lays down the lines he had apparently just crossed. Either he stops boxing, or stops being apart of the Leary family.
Five years later, that’s exactly what he’s done. Leary and his family live off the fortunes of his long-gone success. His boxing career Theresa hated so much takes her to medical school, takes their three daughters to private school, and paid for his brother, Johnny, to go to university as well. Not surprisingly, his money is running out with the economic crash that feels pretty similar to our own. He puts all he has into his family and the one connection to the past he cherishes, “Leary’s Gym”, a boxing center he made with no champion boxer to bring in cash, no funds, and only his old mentor and father to train those that work there.
How FX managed to make this show oddly cliche-yet-original is beyond me, but apparently it was with the help of Warran Leight, who replaced “Lights Out” creator, Justin Zackham, in an attempt to dodge all the boxing genres Fox could think of, determined to make their new gem a winner amongst the ranks of their other shows (“Justified”, “Louie”, “Archer”, among others). McCallany really sold them, and the executive producers knew their new show would be a hit. In comment to the amount to flexibility FX has given their show, Leight said:
“They’ve been taken aback by some things we’ve come up with, but ultimately they’re fine with it. They just don’t want you to ‘go network’ at the end and finish each episode with a hug.”
From the pilot, it seems that Leight has given Fox just what they wanted. A family, boxing, self-preservational drama – no hugging guaranteed. I realized this after watching Leary discover he had a potentially horrible disease, finding out his brother’s ex-wife was aiming to drag Johnny down through Leary’s boxing center, watching his oldest daughter cuss him out twenty minutes into the pilot-you get my point.
Somehow, however, Leary’s calm personality and ability to empathize keep the show mildly light, and even after discovering he beats people up to collect money for a mysterious character named Brennan to pay for his family expenses, Leary’s attitude makes you feel there is more to him. Through the show he experiences several flashes of his last fight, five years prior, revealing a man haunted by guilt for leaving what he loved, and displaying an attitude he no longer has the power to hold, expecting people to respect him when after five long years, he has become a nobody just like everyone else.