Michael C. Hall in Dexter (dir. Michael Cuesta et al., 2006-present).

A Showtime series, which means it's just like regular TV with some extra gore, partial nudity, and F-words. Still, with its premise, this could have been a great show: Dexter Morgan is a blood spatter expert for the Miami PD--and a serial killer himself. He has a sweet girlfriend with two small children and an adoptive sister who works on the homicide squad for his department. He was adopted by a cop who figured out early on that little Dex was a hollow killing machine and somehow managed to instill him with a code of honor whereby he only offs bad people. So it starts getting hard to swallow right there. The big problem is you know right away that Dexter is not at all scary if you're not a murderer yourself. You wouldn't hesitate to have him watch your kids while you go out to dinner--even if you knew his secret. It's built into the show that he's no threat. The real challenge would have been to sustain our identification with him while making us nervous the entire time that he might do away with someone we care about. Patricia Highsmith pulls this off with her sophisticated sociopath Tom Ripley, as does Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald Westlake) with his amoral thief Parker. And Michael C. Hall is definitely good enough to have played the role successfully in this way.

Despite these flaws (and despite the constant annoying voiceover in which Dexter tells us things like "If I did have feelings, I would feel x," etc.), I couldn't help but get caught up in the first season, which I devoured in four nights of DVD-watching. The cast is engaging, and there is real suspense at times. I just wish the writers weren't so anxious at all times to reassure us that Dex is a good guy at heart, or whatever he has.

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