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'Light's Out,' premiering Tuesday on FX

Verne Gay
Newsday (MCT)
LIGHTS OUT - 10 p.m. EST Tuesday - FX

REASON TO WATCH: New York/New Jersey-produced series with a nice, gritty FX texture.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Patrick "Lights" Leary (Holt McCal lany) is an aging heavyweight finally forced out of the ring by an opponent more powerful than any he faced: his wife. After his last title fight — he loses on points — Theresa (Catherine McCormack) tells him "no mas," or words to that effect. A doctor-in-training, she can't deal with the brutality anymore, nor can their three young daughters. "Lights" calls it quits and returns to their New Jersey mansion where he becomes a manny, caring for the kids, getting them off to school and rusticating in the 'burbs.

Fast forward five years: His reckless brother, entrusted with Lights' fortune, has squandered the money, and the former champ has to scrounge to make ends meet. But Johnny Leary (Pablo Schreiber, "The Wire") has an idea to make a fast buck — a very bad idea. Meanwhile, their father (Stacy Keach) wants Lights to help train a promising new boxer in the Gleason's-like gym he operates (a better idea).

MY SAY: Boxing has worked best as a big-screen subject because the basic themes of fall and redemption are so easily packaged within 120 minutes. In 1956's "Somebody Up There Likes Me," Rocky Graziano (Paul Newman) starts off as a career criminal and ends up as world champ. Mark Wahlberg's "The Fighter" isn't all that radically different; Oscars will likely follow. There's a beginning, middle and end. But TV doesn't like stories with obvious endings so viewers keep coming back.

So how does FX get around the challenge via this Warren Leight ("In Treatment") production? By making "Lights" a family man and a thoroughly convincing one at that. He has three daughters who represent the three stages of daughterdom: a very young one who cherishes him, a middle child who worries about him and a teen who disdains him. His wife embraces all three attitudes. The family feels intensely real, and as a result, so does "Lights."

BOTTOM LINE: A particularly fine new FX drama marred only by a tepid pace in the pilot. But pace and story pick up in subsequent episodes.

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