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Review: FX's 'Lights Out'

You don't have to be a boxing fan to be knocked out by Lights Out, FX's new drama series.

While the show is rooted in the sweet science, the appeal of Lights Out stems from the rich development of its characters and stories. Holt McCallany (Men of Honor, Three Kings) stars as Patrick "Lights" Leary, an aging fighter struggling to decide whether to leave the sport, even though he was a champion just five years ago.

The pilot opens with a badly bruised and semiconscious Leary lying on the locker-room table in the aftermath of his championship loss to Richard "Death Row" Reynolds (Billy Brown) - a fight in which Leary failed to finish off his badly hurt opponent. As his wife, physician's assistant Theresa (Catherine McCormack), tends to his cuts and bruises, she gives Leary an ultimatum: Stop fighting or she'll leave.

Five years later, viewers find Leary clearly uncomfortable with his loss to Reynolds and his decision to leave the ring. Complicating matters are the fighter's depleting finances due to his daughter's tuition fees, bad investment choices and the costs of keeping up a boxing gym run by his father (Stacey Keach).

When his brother Jimmy (Pablo Schreiber) informs the champ of an IRS probe of his finances, Leary begins to consider re-entering the ring. In the meantime, he reluctantly looks to make fast money as hired muscle for a local debt collector.

As with other FX series, Lights Out features a complicated lead character whom audiences want to root for, but who achieves his goals by taking some questionable actions that leave viewers cringing. The flawed Leary is torn between his unabashed dedication to providing for his family and his hurt pride, which, after half a decade, is still haunted by his controversial loss to Reynolds and his decision to hang up the gloves for good.

Viewers get to see the conflicting dynamics of Leary's life during a scene in which he promises his young daughter he'll never fight again - she was upset watching one of his bouts on TV - while reliving, through flashbacks, the very brutal beat-down he had just delivered to a former fan who failed to pay back Leary's new loan-shark boss.

Leary's ongoing conundrum, and the actions he takes to resolve it, should keep viewers engaged up to the last round of this intriguing drama series.

FX premieres Lights Out on Jan. 11 at 10 p.m.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.