FX’s ‘Lights Out’ has more than punches to throw at viewers

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With great reviews and a heavy marketing blitz, FX’s new drama ‘Lights Out’ seemed like a safe bet to score well in the ratings.

Instead the show, which stars Holt McCallany as Patrick ‘Lights’ Leary, a former heavyweight champ who retired after losing his title in a controversial decision and now finds himself weighing a return to the ring, drew only 1.5 million viewers in its premiere Tuesday in the 10 p.m. slot.


The numbers have a lot of people scratching their heads.

But trying to figure out why some shows work and some don’t is a fool’s game. FX usually does very well with its original programming and has been very successful in that Tuesday night spot. However, its last two dramatic efforts -- ‘Terriers’ and now ‘Lights Out’ -- have stumbled.

In the case of ‘Lights Out,’ it had unexpectedly strong competition. This week Comedy Central moved its cult hit ‘Tosh.0' to 10 p.m., and BET premiered ‘The Game’ to surprisingly big ratings.

There may also be confusion about the show’s plot. On the surface, ‘Lights Out’ is about an aging prize fighter. In reality, there is actually a lot more going on than just punching. Like Tony Soprano, Leary is caught between two northern New Jersey worlds. He has his nice suburban home with his wife and three daughters and then there is the Bayonne neighborhood of his youth where he hangs out at his old gym with his shady brother whose antics are driving Leary into financial ruin.

‘Lights Out’ has a a wealth of colorful characters including Leary, Reg Cathey’s sleazy boxing promoter Barry Word, and boxing reporter Mike Fumosa, played by Ben Shenkman. It may seem like a show aimed primarily at men, but there are no shortage of strong female characters either, including Leary’s wife and three daughters.

While the billboards around around town touting the drama may have been one-dimensional, the network’s campaign around the country tried to focus on more than just boxing in promoting the show.

This week, FX is hyping the strong reviews in an effort to get people to at least sample ‘Lights Out.’

Hopefully, word-of-mouth on ‘Lights Out’ will boost ratings in the weeks ahead. It’d be a shame if this fight got called before the 15th round.

-- Joe Flint