Commentary: Lights Out Down For The Count… Or Is It?

On March 24th, F/X announced that they would not be renewing their critically acclaimed drama, Lights Out, for a second season as we originally reported here.  In our original review, we stated that Lights Out was the best new show of the Spring and we gave it a coveted 10 out of 10 rating (an honor that has only been bestowed upon one other show since we started the blog, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) after only seeing two episodes and we firmly stand by that assessment, but we get why it didn’t catch on with audiences.

As terrific as Lights Out was, the boxing backdrop in and of itself simply was too niche to appeal to any kind of general audience.  First, boxing has never been that popular of a sport in the U.S., but in the last two decades the sport has seen a serious decline in interest by the public.  As we noted, boxing really was incidental to the show.  The show was really about an ordinary man who, in his prime, had fame and money due to his particular talent, was losing everything and at this point would do ANYTHING to protect his family, even if that meant risking his own personal health, violating his own ethics and morals and even breaking the law.

The problem was that F/X sold this show as a boxing show when there were only two fights during the whole season.  It was very gritty and compelling but unfortunately due to F/X’s decision to emphasize the boxing element before the show ever aired, audiences never really wanted to find out. Now, we aren’t necessarily slamming F/X for the marketing decision, though, as it’s kind of difficult for us to envision a way to market this show downplaying the boxing aspect and making it more attractive to a broader audience at the same time.  Maybe “Lights Out” wasn’t the best title for the show, perhaps?

C’est la vie, though.  TV shows come and go and it’s really difficult for us to get too attached to a show considering how fickle audiences are and how quickly even the best shows seem to leave us.  The upside is that Season One of Lights Out played out like a 13 episode miniseries, even in the finale, leaving unanswered questions that frankly didn’t need a second season to be expanded on (even though it would have been nice).  They could simply be left to the viewer’s imagination to figure it out for themselves, and that, folks, is a mark of great storytelling.

Possibly Up at the 9 Count For One More Round?

As Spock said, “There are always… possibilities.”  No sooner did F/X make the announcement of the cancellation of Lights Out did DirecTV issue feelers to its followers on Twitter regarding interest in possibly picking it up:

FX cancels “Lights Out,” what’s your reaction?

And they aren’t the only ones.  In an interview he did for The Hollywood Reporter, Executive Producer Warren Leight explains that although he’s not optimistic about the chances of the show being picked up by another network, they have been pitching it and Showtime’s name in particular had come up.

People express “maybe” kind of interest. I would love to believe it when it happens. My sense is it’s unlikely Showtime would pick up a show that had been on basic cable.

Not so fast there, Mr. Leight.  We think everyone who watched this show probably agrees that it was better suited for premium cable than basic cable to begin with (again, we noted this as well in our original review) and there’s also the fact that Showtime has a history of broadcasting programming that was rejected by non-premium television (see: The Reagans in 2003).

However, If this does become a reality, our money is on DirecTV Channel 101 if for only the reason that they recently picked up the highly acclaimed Damages from F/X in January with Season 4 set to air in July.  As much as DirecTV claims that they are out of the “Save Our Show” business, wanting to instead focus on original programming for their Channel 101, we believe that if they can find success with Season Four of Damages, their attitude about a show like Lights Out will change rather quickly.  So, at this point, it’s a waiting game.

As an aside, we highly recommend reading the full interview with THR that we linked to earlier. Leight gives many insights into the show and the state of television today and confirms a lot of our original contentions about the show that we restated above.

5 comments on “Commentary: Lights Out Down For The Count… Or Is It?

  1. Shawn..Thanks for standing by the show, and so much of what you’ve said about the reasons it didn’t work are exactly what I’ve been saying/feeling (a few other thoughts I have about FX, but just one I’d like to express is I really think Terriers would also have done much better on a different network,) Back to Lights Out tho, not all of the critics who initially gave the raves were willing to step back and look at other factors once they saw the show was failing, although those that stayed faithful were absolutley GREAT. Everyone is entitled to change their minds, however, there are some sites that have a huge influence on a large group of dedicated followers. I’ve seen many posters say outright that they will watch or not watch a show depending on what the critic feels about it, and I’ve been “skewered” for comments I’ve made for even questioning reviews where I felt some of the negative discussion went a bit beyond true substance. The fact that you actually gave some thought as to WHY it didn’t work is so refreshing! This morning’s news about Warren Leight going to L&O:SVU (CONGRATS WARREN!!), after I’m sure genuinely trying to find a “home” for a Season 2 for Lights Out, actually made me so happy for him. I think he took it very hard and to see him get right back out there is wonderful. I hope to see Holt McCallany VERY SOON as well, critics be damned, that man gave an EMMY winning performance as Patrick Leary. Losing a show that I loved so much has really hurt, but after 20+ years of being in the background, I am grateful that it showed the true talent of this man. Life ain’t fair as they say, and boy I’ve learned that the television viewing audience can be darn cruel, but for now the “Nielsen Boxes” have spoken. Hope someday to see that “system” AXED. I would never base my decision to watch or not watch a program based on ANY critics opinion, but the unknown, faceless few who DO decide what the rest of us will or won’t watch… “NIELSEN FAMILES CANCELLED, NETWORKS DECIDE NOT TO RENEW, ADVERTISERS HAVE ENTERED THE 21ST CENTURY” Now there’s GREAT headline, dont’cha think? LOL.. Thanks again Shawn..

    • Sasha, thanks for reading. I was proud to stand by it as it was a fantastic show. There aren’t too many shows that week after week I just can’t wait to come on and of course Lights Out was one of the few. I really do love F/X. It’s a peculiar little network that seems to straddle the line between basic and premium cable which is, as I noted, where I think it probably would have fared better. I was so surprised and really thrilled to see Leight’s impressions of the show so incredibly similar to my own especially what he said about The Sopranos because even though I didn’t say it in the review, I was thinking the exact same thing. The reason that I didn’t bring up The Sopranos is because it’s so clichéd to compare shows to The Sopranos so I try to restrain myself from doing it. The truth is though is that Lights Out was really as much about boxing as The Sopranos was about organized crime or Six Feet Under was about the Funeral Business. Lights Out was one of the truly great character driven stories and if we don’t see it show up somewhere else for a second season, I’ll be grateful that I got to enjoy the 13 episodes they gave us.

      Now. let’s discuss F/X here a little bit more. As far as Terriers is concerned, I thoroughly enjoyed it and was very surprised that it didn’t catch on (you can read my review here. Gave it a 7 after the pilot, in retrospect, after a full season, it should have gotten an 8 or 8.5) because I happen to disagree with you: it was perfect for F/X. Their target demo is young men and that show is a perfect show for them. The only thing that makes sense to me as to why the show failed was because of the timeslot and I normally don’t blame timeslot for ANYTHING but that Wednesday 10:00 p.m. slot was so densely packed this Fall that it was really no wonder why Terriers got lost in the shuffle. You had the new L & O series on NBC, The Defenders with big names Jerry O’Connell and Jim Belushi, and rounding it out was the Jerry Bruckheimer legal show starring Rob Morrow The Whole Truth. Now, TWT did get cancelled like five episodes in and The Defenders began really falling off a cliff around December but by that time it didn’t matter. Terriers wasn’t the type of show people could just jump into because it was a serial. I think it would have fared a lot better had it aired mid-season, perhaps with Justified as it’s lead-in or out.

      And that’s kind of what we do here. We root for and support our favorite shows but when they fail, we generally try to be objective as possible as to the reasons why and we don’t waste our time with the silliness that usually comes from fans like “the network didn’t give it a chance,” or “audiences are just stupid and all they watch is reality TV,” etc., etc. There are of course a lot of factors as to why even the best of shows don’t succeed none of them having to do with the quality of the show and how a show is marketed can be a deciding factor and scheduling is part of marketing. As for Lights Out, there is no way around it. It is very tough to sell a serial with a boxing backdrop in 2011 but admitting it doesn’t take away from how good of a show it was, and hopefully still will be. It seriously gave me chills when Leight said in the interview that they had five years more worth of material for that story.

      I couldn’t agree more about Holt McCallany, I’ve known him for years in generally “tough guy” character actor roles and it was very refreshing to see him shine in a complex lead character role. Here’s his bio from iMDB. It’s simply amazing to me that he’s been pigeon holed for so long and he deserves an Emmy nomination:

      Holt was born into a family of New York City actors, his mother was an actress and singer, and his father a Tony Award winning actor and producer. He began school in Dublin, Ireland at the age of five before his parents moved back to NY. At 14 years old, his long road began when he ran away from home and took a Greyhound bus to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. Destined to be a star but not a runaway, Holt’s parents tracked him down and sent him back to Ireland to boarding school. Following high school, he went to France to continue his education. He learned French at the Sorbonne, studied art history at the Paris American Academy, and theater at L’Ecole Marceau and L’Ecole Jacques Lecoq. He spent a summer studying Shakespeare in Oxford. After Europe, he moved back to New York permanently to begin his acting career.

      As far as the crappy Nielsen is concerned… oh, boy is that a discussion for another post but allow me to say this: in this age of immediate digital information and technology where 94% of the country is either connected to cable or satellite, there is ZERO reason why receivers, DVR’s, TiVo’s, Internet connected TV’s, etc. cannot send real time, accurate anonymous usage data that would track ALL television viewing for an accurate tallying of ratings.

      Thanks again for reading and feel free to join us on Facebook.

  2. Pingback: Dexter: Lights Out’s Billy Brown To Join Cast For Season Six | TV-Tastic

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