Wednesday, February 27, 2008
SPLATTER! Dexter, ITV1, 10.35pm
We've got to hand it to ITV1 - when they set out to reposition themselves in the marketplace, they don't do things by halves. Admittedly, perhaps the first phase of the plan didn't go so brilliantly, since none of The Palace, Honest, Echo Beach or Moving Wallpaper are really doing the business, ratings-wise. Phase II, however, where they steal the crown that's been variously held by Five, Channel 4, Sky One and Living over the years as home of the best US imports, might just be more successful - and to prove they mean business, they've bought Dexter.
It's not an obvious choice for ITV1 - while it's not like they shy away from grim 'n' gory television, as anyone who watches Trial and Retribution, Cold Blood or any of their ilk will attest, but this show is another matter entirely. Even lowculture's normally cast-iron constitution was shaken up during the opening sequence in which the eponymous hero - oh, by the way, he just happens to be a serial killer - calmly murders a paedophile. Seriously folks: we know that it's not uncommon for US imports to end up in graveyard slots like this, but on this occasion there's a very good reason this show is on well after the watershed. It is not for the faint of heart.
And yet, even though there is quite the selection of scenes here that you may end up watching through your fingers, we still heartily recommend it after watching tonight's opening episode. Dexter makes for an astoundingly amiable sociopath - whenever he hasn't got his murderous game face on, he's nerdily spinning around in his office chair (he works, brilliantly, as a forensics expert specialising in blood splatter analysis) and bringing his colleagues donuts with a smile. And since he limits his serial killing to those who truly deserve it, it's not difficult to root for him. The moment that really set the scene for us was the point during one of his opening voiceovers where he explains that both of his parents are dead (though he has no apparent desire to apply for The X Factor, weirdly), before quickly adding irritably "no, I didn't kill them", as though thoroughly used to answering that question to the people who habitually sit in on his innermost thoughts.
We're big fans of the supporting cast in this show, too. Angel's Julie Benz is almost unrecognisable as Dexter's emotionally fragile girlfriend Rita, and our absolute favourite character thus far is Sergeant Doakes, who, as Dexter puts it, "in a building full of cops, all of whom supposedly have an insight into the human soul, is the only one who gets the creeps from me." And he's not especially reticent about showing it, either. Dude is awesome.
It's a great watch, but make sure you've got the stomach for it. And if this all sounds a little full-on for you, don't worry: Pushing Daisies was also on their shopping list. That's also awesome, and not quite so much with the gore. Just pies.