smith-rubio family xmas update, 10th annual edition
#21: night and fog (alain resnais, 1955)

the second annual karen sisco award

Last year, I started a new tradition … well, it isn’t really a tradition until it’s been done at least twice, so I guess this post marks the beginning of the new tradition. I called it the Karen Sisco Award, named after the short-lived television series starring Carla Gugino. Sisco was the character played by Jennifer Lopez in the film Out of Sight, and the series, with also featured Robert Forster and Bill Duke, was on ABC. They made ten episodes, showed seven, and cancelled it. Gugino was ridiculously hot (no surprise there) and the series, based on an Elmore Leonard character, got about as close as anyone did to Leonard’s style until Justified came along.

When I posted an R.I.P. to the show, my son commented, “Every year there is a new favorite Daddy-O show that gets cancelled mid-season. … You have some sort of fixation with doomed shows, did it start with Crime Story or does it come from your upbringing?” (In fairness, Crime Story lasted two seasons.) The Karen Sisco Award exists to honor those doomed shows.

Last year, there were two series with a chance at the award. Rubicon irritated a lot of people with its slow pace and its slow pace and did I mention it was slow? It was also pretty terrific once it got rolling. But its final episode was inconclusive, which means it won’t play quite as well as it should when people inevitably catch up with it on Netflix. And so, Terriers won the first Karen Sisco Award. It was the better show, and no one watched it, so it was doomed. The last episode worked as a season-ender, and also as a series-ender, and it should play quite well on Netflix.

Like Terriers, this year’s winner, Lights Out, was on FX. FX has built a nice reputation as a place for a certain kind of show with a certain level of excellence: The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, Justified. Apparently, it is also the place for the kind of doomed show that doesn’t catch the attention of a large-enough audience.

Lights Out featured many well-known people in the supporting cast, along with plenty of “hey, it’s that guys”. Stacy Keach and Catherine McCormick were the former, and the latter included The Guy Who Played Nick Sobotka on The Wire, Reg E. Cathey (also from The Wire), The Guy Who Played Minister Said on Oz, and a clown from the Pickle Family Circus. David Morse, who has done it all (from St. Elsewhere to Lars von Trier to House to George Washington to Treme), did a one-episode guest shot that was Emmy-worthy in itself.

Lights Out tells the story of a retired boxer, Patrick “Lights” Leary, who gets into financial trouble and returns to the ring, even though he has the beginnings of pugilistic dementia. It’s a very clichéd plot, and Lights Out didn’t always rise above those clichés. But it had a secret weapon, an actor named Holt McCallany, as Lights, and he was a revelation. McCallany was in a lot of things I had seen and liked, but I can’t say I recognized him. He was so obscure to me that I wouldn’t even have said “hey, it’s that guy!” McCallany was the best thing about a very good show. He was likably low-key, like an Irish Gary Cooper, and his understated style played well off of the more flamboyant work by Cathey, Eamonn Walker, and others. Lights Leary was a complex character … if that wasn’t true, I probably wouldn’t have liked the show, given my taste preferences. While he returned to the ring to make money, he also loved to hit people, and McCallany did a good job of playing that aspect of Lights’ personality as if it was a revelation to the man himself.

I want to give away the ending. Well, I already did when I first posted about the finale back in April. It is one of the greatest, most heart-rending endings to any series, ever. But since part of the purpose of the Karen Sisco Award is to convince you to watch the show on DVD or Blu-ray or Netflix, I won’t tell you how that final scene goes. You’ll just have to trust me, and then go watch Lights Out when it becomes available.

Karen Sisco Award Winners:

  • 2010: Terriers
  • 2011: Lights Out


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