Last night, FX’s Lights Out ended its brief run with what should have been a fine finale following a mediocre season.
In fact, the finale should have been the series’ best episode — and that’s not intended to damn with faint praise. It was a well-crafted hour centered around the rematch between “Lights” Leary and the man who had taken his belt and sent him into premature retirement years before, “Death Row” Reynolds. The episode should have been a fitting climax for those that bought into the entire season and an entertaining stand-alone for those that didn’t. But the big match itself undermined the whole damn thing.
Watching last night’s fight, it suddenly became very clear to me why sports series don’t work on television: money. TV shows don’t have the available funds to recreate the sporting events they’re attempting to depict.
Friday Night Lights was a great show, but the football sequences were always the weakness. The writers and producers of FNL were smart enough to realize that, and sprinkle in just enough football to remind us the show was ostensibly about a football team.
Maybe the Light Out creative team realized the same thing, but couldn’t figure out a way to avoid having a big fight serve as the climax of a boxing show.
Because the match between Leary and Reynolds? The match that the show teased all season long? It was fucking unwatchable.
This was supposed to be a huge heavyweight fight in the show’s fictional world — the biggest boxing match in a decade or more. Its real-life equivalent would probably have been the Tyson-Holyfield rematch in terms of hype and dollars. But the show didn’t have the budget to make the fight look like anything more than a backroom brawl.
The fight was filmed in a darkened, clearly empty arena with just enough extras to fill the first couple rows of seats. The piped-in crowd noise sounded underwhelming and fake. This looked, sounded and felt nothing like a major sporting event. There was never a moment where I was able to stop thinking that this was two actors throwing fake punches in a rented-out civic center. It looked like a clip some amateurs filmed and threw on YouTube.
I’m all for suspending disbelief to buy in to great drama, but this fight was a budget cut too deep. Everything from the ring entrances to the post-fight celebration seemed fake, which meant the emotion attached to the fight was harder to believe.
I give Lights Out credit for going down swinging, but in the final round, the show’s fiscal limitations turned out to be its glass jaw.*
* Previous sentence brought to you by Rick Reilly, Inc.