Dexter Comes to CBS (Cut Up Like an Ice Truck Killer Corpse)   

CBS is home to many popular crime dramas like C.S.I., Without a Trace, Cold Case, Numb3rs, etc. You know what’s wrong with all those shows?

They’re not told from the perspective of the killer.

Dexter Reading PaperOn February 17, in a now-obsolete strike-related move, CBS shakes things up by importing the hit Showtime drama Dexter into its Sunday-night lineup. On the one hand, I’m glad that one of my favorite shows is getting the opportunity to be exposed to a broader audience. On the other hand, I don’t want to imagine what the show is like after it’s done being edited for network television (even for the put-the-kids-to-bed-first 10 o’clock hour). But let’s focus on the positive first.

The first season of Dexter is fucking amazing. It’s a twelve-episode puzzle of a character study that culminates in one hell of an emotional payoff. It’s like watching a really long movie or reading a really great book.

Dexter Morgan is a blood spatter technician for the Miami Police Department. He’s also a serial killer. Everyone needs a hobby, right? But wait: Dexter only kills other killers. So is he really that bad a guy? This is the moral dilemma at the heart of the show, but since we get the story from Dexter’s POV, the show can’t really come out and ask that question, which puts the audience in an interesting position. We’re forced to sympathize with our protagonist, a serial killer who walks among us, pretending to be a regular guy. And as we get inside his head, we start to wonder. The many things Dexter does to pass as normal are things we ourselves do to pass as normal, posing the question of what society-defined “normal” truly means, whether it’s necessary, and how good or bad it is that we all have a little bit of Dexter in us.

Dexter CastMichael C. Hall is fantastic as Dexter (as he was as David in Six Feet Under), and he’s supported by a great cast. Jennifer Carpenter as Deb, Dexter’s sister, simultaneously projects vulnerability and toughness. Julie Benz (whom many fans will recognize as Darla from Buffy and Angel) is sweet but damaged as Rita, Dexter’s girlfriend. Then we have the Oz alumni: Lauren Velez as Lt. LaGuerta, who’s trying to make a name for herself in the department; David Zayas as Angel Batista, a lovable cop who’s the closest thing Dexter has to a friend; and Erik King as James Doakes, the only cop in the precinct who suspects that something is up with Dexter. Throw in C.S. Lee (Harry Tang in Chuck) as a sex-obsessed lab tech for comic relief. And, of course, let’s not forget James Remar as Harry Morgan, the man who gave Dexter his Code.

Dexter is one of those shows whose every element is near perfect. Acting, cinematography, writing, music, everything. Each perfectly crafted episode fits neatly into the perfectly crafted arc of the season.

But you’re not really getting the full experience if you watch it on CBS. Deb is canonically potty-mouthed; it’s part of her character that she talks dirty and tough to the bemusement of her male co-workers. Doakes’s every other line seems to include the word “motherfucker”; it’s part of his brusque charm! One of the major storylines with Rita involves Dexter’s attempts to engage in this “sex” thing that’s supposed to be important in relationships, and Michael C. Hall’s awkward expressions in these scenes (some of which may be too explicit for network television) are priceless. Even though there’s very little violence and gore, there’s no telling what Standards and Practices will find unsuitable. Finally: commercials. An episode of Dexter is designed to move move move for fifty minutes, leaving you breathless and wanting more by the end. Breaking the tension up with ads is just wrong.

My advice? Consider the airings on CBS a free sample. Get a taste of what the show is like, and then do yourself a favor and rent/buy the DVDs. Can’t wait till Sunday? Check out these clips and start watching one of the best shows on television.

2 Responses to “Dexter Comes to CBS (Cut Up Like an Ice Truck Killer Corpse)”

  1. 1
    Harper47 says:

    Oh I so agree. I found Dexter wonderful, engaging and fascinating. I have no desire to watch a chopped up, edited version of it. Hopefully it will be good for Michael C. Hall because as you say, he is amazing in this. But my advice is also to rent the original.

    (I’m now trying to imagine Deadwood cut up for network tv and giggling hysterically)

  2. 2
    Eolivet says:

    Oh, interesting…see, I figured “Dexter” was being edited because of the violence (as such, I was excited to see it, since I steer clear of pay cable shows with graphic/excessive violence). I still think editing might not necessarily be a bad thing, if only to expose the show to a wider audience. One thing I’ve noticed is if the material is good enough, it will still be great TV, no matter what the edits are. :)

    I DVR’ed Sunday’s ep, but have yet to watch it. ;)