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On the CBS "Dexter," There Will Be Blood... But Not as Much
February 15, 2008  | By David Bianculli
 
If not for the strike, this wouldn't have happened... but starting Sunday, CBS will be repeating the first season of Dexter, the daring Showtime series I ranked as one of the Top 10 TV shows of 2007. But it arrives, it should be noted, a little differently.

dexter.jpgDexter stars Michael C. Hall, giving an even more amazing performance than he did as the repressed brother on HBO's Six Feet Under, as a blood-spatter expert who works in forensics for the Miami police department, examining crime scenes. That's his day job. At night, he sometimes identifies and seeks out serial killers who have eluded prosecution - then murders them himself.

In other words, he's a serial killer of serial killers.

If you're a premium network such as Showtime, without censorial restrictions and with a real drive to attract the sort of attention HBO did with The Sopranos, a series like Dexter is a perfect fit. But how comfortably will it fit on CBS, and will the transplant take?

First, the good news - and there's a lot of it. When Sex and the City was edited for the shift to basic cable TV on TBS, both the language and the sex took major hits. When The Sopranos went on A&E, the language and violence were so jarringly replaced or removed that it was, like the tamer Sex and the City, it was no fun to watch.

But the first season of Dexter is almost completely without sex, and the only rough language emanates from two cops on the Miami force: Dexter's sister, and a sergeant named Doakes (Erik Kig), who's convinced there's something creepy about Dexter. And there is.

His curses are tamed so much for CBS that a lot of spice is lost, and I'd still prefer first-time Dexter viewers watch the unedited first-season DVD instead. Otherwise, the subtle edits in the two episodes sent for preview are marginal, though not unnoticable.

What I wonder about is much later in the season, when Dexter is shown, both in flashbacks and in present day, in a virtual bloodbath of a crime scene. There's no getting around that - and if it's minimized on CBS, so is the exact element that makes the character so understandable, and the series itself so powerful.

In a New York press conference Wednesday, Showtime executives Matt Blank and Bob Greenblatt talked of CBS's enthusiasm for the series, allowing each episode to run almost 50 minutes of a one-hour time slot. That's several minutes more than a hour drama usually gets, because of advertising - but because pressure groups have targeted Dexter without seeing the edited broadcast version, less ad time may have been unavoidable.

I asked the Showtime executives that, since the entire 12-episode first season of Dexter told one serialized dramatic story, and since CBS had a history of canceling such series prematurely in recent years, whether they'd gotten assurances that CBS would run all 12. Greenblatt guessed that, unless "no one shows up on Sunday," CBS would carry this strike-year experiment through to the end. Blank, referring to the fact that Dexter is available already, in unedited form, as a DVD boxed set and as downloads, added with a smile, "And the good news? There's always somewhere else you can see it."

If CBS cancels Dexter, or if you're not comfortable with the network editing, remember that.

 

2 Comments

 

sharon Liese said:

David:

please check out High School Confidential and say what you think...www.wetv.com/highschool

Comment posted on February 17, 2008 10:47 PM



alfena mcdonald said:

I am an eighth grader about to attend high school and i feel that by watching this show i can make the right decisions. (Not about becoming a serial killer, I hope... David B)

Comment posted on March 16, 2008 12:12 PM

 
 
 
 
 
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