Saturday, October 28

Dexter Special

Television Review is not just global, but reputable too. Just ask Nick Yates.

It’s official, Television Review is written by “reputable influencers”. Such high praise came from Brandon, a nice press officer at American production company Showtime, who was so keen for us to take a sneak peek at upcoming crime drama Dexter that he posted a DVD of the first episode of the series - sorry, ‘season’ - all the way from the USA. The US of god damn A!

Dexter is all about the life and adventures of the eponymous police forensics expert - a police forensics expert who also happens to be a serial killer himself, Brandon told me. Airing for the first time on October 1 in the States, it will be hitting our shores sometime soon.

As promised, the preview DVD arrived through my letter box this morning, complete with shiny cardboard sleeve and press bumph, hyping up its credentials.

Turns out Dexter is rather good. Not in the class of many other US imports, but certainly better than Corrie or The Bill.

It stars the gay Fisher brother from Six Feet Under, Michael C Hall. He carries an otherwise slightly flaky cast with the same class that earned him an Emmy nomination in that last part. Playing Dexter is a case of role reversal for Hall after Six Feet Under. While he displays the same chasm-like depths of insecurity and sexual hang-ups - this time straight ones - as David Fisher, he is a brutal, murderous, cool and two-faced killer. One particularly fine episode of Six Feet Under saw David abducted and tortured. This time, he is the one holding the torturer’s tools.

The show is a version of CSI for people who can stand plot and character development. It takes place in Miami, the site of gruesome murders committed in ingenious, novel ways. The opening episode goes so far as to almost directly reference the ridiculous set ups in CSI: Miami. Everything under the bright lights of this crazy city is bizarre, so why shouldn’t its crime be bizarre, preposterous and far-fetched, the narrator asks within the first few minutes.

The premise is skilfully set up in the necessarily expositive first episode. Series’ first instalments so often do this at the expense of being any good, but Dexter had me gripped from the off. The eponymous hero, through his novel double station in life, is a hot-shot at detecting the crimes and a hot-shot at committing them without being caught. You know what they say about the police: they know how to bend the law.

See, Dexter, as we’re told in flashbacks, was brought up by his respected detective foster father, who honed him to be an ace in the ways of the law. He also spotted in him his disturbing pre-disposition for homicide and channelled this into his son becoming a vigilante. If he’s going to kill, the victims may as well be the scumbags who his incompetent police departments superiors let off the hook. He is a genuinely fascinating, multi-faceted character.

Dexter does have its faults. The heavy use of voiceover betrays the fact that it seems to have been ripped rather hastily from the source material, the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. It is flashy, and from the evidence of the first episode, it won’t be long before you’ve seen enough set ups of people appearing to be committing bloody acts in soft focus but actually just squeezing a grapefruit, flossing, shaving… the list goes on. And it is certainly nothing new. We have seen the dark, amoral comedy of a murderer with two lives screened in a similar way with the far classier adaptation of American Psycho.

Nevertheless, the preview DVD warranted the air miles. And if it’s good enough to post to humble English “reputable influencers” all the way from America, its good enough for me.

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