Listen, I’m not a huge fan of TV. I probably watch much more than I should, and read less than I ought to, but I don’t worship at the temple of the conduit to the airwaves. Saying that, I do have certain shows that I tend to watch fairly religiously from week to week.
Right now, I’d say (for me, at least) that we’re in a Golden Age of TV viewing. It happens every so often, when almost every night at around 9-10pm there’s one show that I really want to watch and don’t miss if I can help it. Now, I don’t have satellite TV or anything like that, just humble terrestrial and freeview, but there comes a time when there’s a great show on almost every night.
My viewing palette at the moment consists of (in weekly order, starting from Monday): Heroes, C.S.I Las Vegas, Desperate Housewives (a guilty pleasure, but not as dodgy as it sounds if you haven’t seen it – think a dark, pseudo-Stepford Wives meets Thelma & Louise meets The Burbs style soap opera), Dexter, Pushing Daisies, nothing on Saturday and Supernatural.
Far and away the cream of this delectable crop is Dexter. This show is awesome.
If you’ve not seen it and you like excellent writing, dark subtext and gripping characters, plus you don’t mind a bit of blood and horror here and there, then I urge you to watch it. The second season, currently airing on ITV1, is about five or six episodes old now, and with twelve episodes per season you’re probably better off seeking out the DVD for season one online and ordering that instead, but it doesn’t preclude me from extolling the virtues of this great show.
In a nutshell, Dexter is a serial killer who murders serial killers. Psychologically damaged by a childhood trauma that resulted in him witnessing first hand the brutal murder of his mother, even as a young boy Dexter has had an urge to kill things. This pathological compulsion is tempered by his foster father, Harry, who teaches Dexter how to control and ultimately express his deviancy in ways that leave innocent people… well, alive. Harry gives Dexter all the techniques and training that allow him to function in society and wear a mask of normalcy to hide his homicidal urges.
Fast forward about twenty years and Dexter is working as a blood spatter specialist in the Miami Police Department. Fear not, the law enforcement milieu in Dexter is about as far away as you can get from the glitzy, cheese-ridden debacle that is C.S.I Miami. You won’t find pithy one-liners, ludicrous posturing, sunglasses-catalogue posing, doe-eyed high-heeled criminalists here, oh no – this is much more gritty and realistic, a far cry from plastic faces and wooden characters more concerned with their wardrobe and make-up than the business of actually looking like cops.
Dexter is surrounded by a glorious cast: the politically savvy, stab you in the back if it advances her career, Lieutenant Laguerta; the testosterone-fulled, super paranoid, ex-Special Forces powder keg waiting to go off, Sergeant Doakes; generally foul-mouthed, slightly naive and just that little bit annoying sister, Debra Morgan; and the generally likable, slightly paunchy, all round good guy, Angel Batista. The ever dependable Julie Benz, who played the character of Darla in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, also gets a meaty role, and is great as the flaky, doormat of a wreck of a woman, who just wants a nice life with her family/is blissfully unaware of her boyfriend, Dexter’s, pathology, Rita.
The cast is excellently put together and they are all obvious pros selected with talent in mind. The show’s writing, as already mentioned, is razor sharp and very, very witty. Given the fact the show’s major content deals with grisly death and a character who cuts up his victims into tiny little pieces, before putting the parts in black bin liners and weighing them down to sink to the bottom of the ocean, it’s even more remarkable.
Major props has to go to the opening credit sequence, which is such a visceral feast of semiological murder and torture metaphors, I defy you not to marvel at its genius.
Superbly dark, Dexter is a must-see show as far as I’m concerned, probably the best show on TV at this moment in time. Former greats like Heroes seem to be limping along at the moment, waiting for a spark that might never come to try and recapture old glories, but Dexter goes from strength-to-strength.
Part of that strength might be explained by the fact that the series is based on the novels by Jeff Lindsey (Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Dearly Devoted Dexter, Dexter in the Dark), which, admittedly, I have yet to read, but Louise has a copy that is waiting on her bedside that I might sneak over to my side once I’m done with John Connolly’s The White Road.
As for Dexter himself, Michael C Hall (who is probably best known for his role in Six Feet Under as David Fisher) absolutely nails it for me; equal parts sociopathic monster/happy go-lucky family man. His awkwardness juxtaposed with his burgeoning, if slightly confusing, love for Rita and her children is both chilling and touching at the same time. Even though Dexter is a serial killer (albeit, who only kills serial killers, but you never know when that might slip for personal reasons…), he is incredibly likable – a real testament to Michael C Hall’s consummate acting skills.
Dark and quirky, Dexter is just a brilliant, brilliant show. Any fans of crime or drama in general should give this a look.