Television and the assortment of shows it kindly brings us is approaching its 100th birthday. It's safe to say that a great deal of the excellent ideas, the great ideas, the good ideas and even the average ideas for programmes have been done to death. In fact, most of them have probably had a remake or a reboot along the way. But then there are the bad ideas. The real stinkers that live in the dark recesses of writers minds. Usually these dark life forms are kept locked away but occasionally they break free and are made. Usually, they're quickly identified by highly-skilled observers (the audience), rounded up and shot (or cancelled if you prefer). On rarer occasions still, these bad ideas become the television equivalent of the ugly duckling. Butt ugly on paper but they grow into something quite wonderful. Because two years ago, if you said re-making Hannibal on TV without Anthony Hopkins was a good idea everyone would've laughed in your face. Look at them now, eh? Ditto the apparently 'unfilmable' Song Of Ice And Fire. So lets go on a duck hunt. Many of the most popular TV shows of the last 30 years have had some really bad ideas at their heart, but have still managed to strike gold.
Obviously this already existed in the novels by Jeff Lindsay but on-screen it is a harder sell. A much harder sell. The basic premise is a show about a serial killer. A sociopathic serial killer who murders someone in cold blood most episodes often in quite brutal ways. Nothing wrong with that, as there are some excellent shows based around the idea of catching serial killers. However they're usually being pursued by an engaging cop character. You know the types...young rookie with a hunch, tough by-the-books cop or even the old favourite; the alcoholic washed-up cop on his last case. But with Dexter the murderer is the lead character. We are inside his life,we are inside his head and the show (at least in the earlier seasons) really works. The most frustrating thing about Dexter is that it really shouldn't work. We should hate this guy. He kills people. Horribly. He judges who should die by looking them up on a computer for a bit and then following them for a few hours. It's hardly a thorough investigation. He gets his wife killed. He turns his sister into a murderer, makes her lose the career she loves and then gets her killed as well. He abandons his son with anyone he can at every turn. Remind me, why do we like this character again? The answer, in short, was Michael C Hall. How he did it is akin to voodoo but somehow we cared about Dexter and actually wanted him to be happy which is perhaps why the conclusion of the series pleased few fans. Michael C Hall was nominated for a Emmy award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series five years in a row but never won, but it still goes to prove that the right actor can make a part successful however bafflingly bad on paper. The rumours his next part will be of a man who fires kittens out of cannons and tortures puppies is, as yet, unconfirmed.