‘Dexter’ gets a life

[28 September 2008]

By Ellen Gray

Philadelphia Daily News (MCT)

“Dexter” spent the spring on CBS, but with the writers strike now history, television’s most sympathetic serial killer is back on premium cable Sunday (9 p.m., Showtime).

Which is, let’s face it, where he probably belongs.

There are way too many people on CBS trying to catch people like him.

Not that things are ever easy for Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), who eluded the FBI only to find himself this year facing a very different kind of trap _ one baited with the possibility of something approaching a normal life.

For a man who’s never seen himself as anything but a monster masquerading as a human being, the very idea is both terrifying and tantalizing.

It’s also a tricky leap forward for the series, which until now has had Dexter taking baby steps in his personal interactions, while making it clear he’s going to continue carving up certain of his fellow monsters at regular intervals.

How do you domesticate someone like that?

The arrival of Jimmy Smits as a man desperate to make Dexter his friend further complicates things, though perhaps for Smits most of all.

His character, a prosecutor and a political animal, is in some ways harder to fathom than Dexter: Angry, a bit arrogant and yet woefully needy, he seems to be a work in progress in the episodes I’ve seen so far, serving mostly as a disturbance in Dexter’s well-ordered world.

I can’t tell where Smits’ prosecutor is going to end up, but am hoping it’s not in pieces at the bottom of the bay.

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There may have been an elephant in the room during the filming of this season’s “Californication,” which premieres at 10 p.m. Sunday on Showtime, but I’m pretty sure the cast and crew were too busy orchestrating the sex and drug scenes to notice it.

Hey, there might have been an entire thundering herd.

Before the reports that David Duchovny had entered rehab for sex addiction, I’d never really understood what he saw in “Californication’s” sexually voracious Hank Moody, a character whose temperament matched his last name.

I’m not sure I do now, either, since I’d like to keep the man and the character separate, whatever their troubles.

I can see what Moody might see in Duchovny, though: The actor can’t save Hank from being pathetic, but he at least makes him funny.

That’s a burden that any actor should be sharing with writers, but “Californication,” a show that’s ostensibly about an accomplished writer, has never struck me as that well-written.

It is, however, well-cast, and surrounded by Natascha McElhone (who plays the love of Hank’s life), Evan Handler (his agent and best friend) and the remarkable Madeleine Martin (his daughter), Duchovny has the kind of support group he needs to deal with Hank’s problems, anyway.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/dexter-gets-a-life/