This Sunday night at 10 p.m EST, CBS attempts to bolster its writers-strike-depleted primetime lineup by bringing over a program from pay cable, Showtime’s Dexter.
For those not familiar with the show, Dexter is a limited series based on the first in a series of novels about a Miami police forensic consultant whose expertise happens to be based in great part on the fact that he is a serial killer.
It’s a clever premise, of course, and critics have widely acclaimed the show. The title character has always been prone to violent urges, which his policeman father turned toward what we are asked to see is good: he kills other killers.
The people he kills are very evil and dangerous indeed, and we are to understand that they will not be caught and will go on killing unless Dexter steps in. He dispatches them with scientific cleanliness and precision.
Like all police forensics shows, Dexter is heavy on gore, grim details of horrible crimes, and a generally depressing point of view on life, and it is even more so given that it originally appeared on pay cable TV, which puts a premium on sensationalism. Yet the questions the show brings up—real moral inquiries about the nature of good and evil—are serious and important ones, and the producers largely seem to give them the serious treatment they deserve. They don’t offer any easy answers, but not through flippancy but becasue they clearly realize that there aren’t any in the situations they’re depicting.
In everything other than his killings, Dexter is very ordinary and somewhat likeable, although he finds it hard to become close to people because he has great diffficulty feeling emotional ties or affection for others, although at times he does seem to verge on feeling some true sympathy for his girlfriend, Lila, also a very damaged person.
The program is very careful not to make a hero of Dexter, yet it does not appear that audiences always see the distinction—I recently heard a local sports-talk personality say that Dexter was his hero, and he was not kidding. That’s perhaps the scariest thing about the show.
CBS will show the entire first season, consisting of a dozen episodes, on Sunday nights. More information is available at the Dexter website.