It's tempting to root for the writer's strike in Hollywood to continue since it's resulted in a slowdown in stylized depravity. But it's never that easy. CBS is now planning to fill this void in new scripted programming with something so warped that you'd pray for a power outage.
CBS will repurpose the Showtime drama "Dexter," the series that asks viewers to root for a lovable serial murderer. Fans can now buy the first season of the show on DVD, the same 12 episodes set to air on CBS. You can't miss the cover: Star Michael C. Hall has a hand thoughtfully placed on his face -- but the hand isn't his. It's a dead hand. It's the same kind of humor that inspired the writers to name the killer's boat "Slice of Life." Their "Dexter" Web site announces the CBS airings with a splashy blood spot, complete with sound effect. This serial-killer premise is just so much fun.
"Dexter" will air on Sunday nights at 10 p.m., or 9 p.m. in the Central and Mountain time zones. CBS claims the series will be edited for extreme violence or gore. But there is no way that CBS can edit out the central theme of this program. Dexter finds killing and dismembering human beings to be intoxicating. CBS thinks we, too, should be fascinated and intoxicated by that.
The drama is based in Miami, where lovable Dexter satisfies his taste for pork sandwiches and his blood lust for long, drawn-out dismemberment. During the day, he works as a police specialist, examining the blood spatter at crime scenes. At night, he spends his time preparing his next victim. Showtime (and now CBS) believes they have enough "moral ambiguity" in the series because he only kills other serial killers. He's a toxic avenger.
It's one thing to put this blackened filet of soul on a pay-cable channel. It's another thing entirely to take it and paste it on one of the Big Three broadcast channels.
Defenders of anything-goes TV have protested that the show is on Sunday night at 10, hardly a hot time for children to be watching. But sadly, hundreds of thousands of them do. Take, for example, the second week of December on CBS. "Without a Trace," a 10 o'clock show that Nielsen estimates was watched by 269,000 children aged 2 to 11 and 465,000 children aged 12 to 17.
The same numbers will now apply to a show celebrating human butchery.