- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

A so-so ‘Dexter’

In “Dexter,” Showtime’s much-hyped series about a medical examiner by day who turns vigilante-style serial killer at night, the bloodletting begins early on. After the opening credits, the camera zeroes in on the director of a boys’ choir who will become the night’s first victim. Aided by stereotypes and recent headlines, he’s immediately identified as a pedophile (and a murderous one, at that) — who in Dexter Morgan’s (Michael C. Hall) mind must pay the ultimate price for his sins.

The gory death is swift, graphic and pretty much sets a predictable tone for this cliched-ridden drama.

Don’t, however, write it off. At least not yet. While much of “Dexter” (debuting Sunday at 10 p.m.) looks as though its writers have read the news accounts of Jack the Ripper and watched the 1956 camp classic “The Bad Seed” one too many times, it’s not entirely bad and may fleetingly hold your interest.

Mr. Hall, etched into the minds of many as David Fisher, the homosexual undertaker on HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” manages to segue from one macabre character to another with relative ease. After five years on “SFU,” he still looks and sounds like David, but takes it down a notch to morph into “Dexter’s” maniacal, brutal and dangerous protagonist.

Aside from his secret life, Dexter’s smart, cute and a bit of an oddball in the eyes of his co-workers at the Miami Police Department. Through flashbacks, we learn that his murderous urges began in childhood. He kills small animals but insists he had nothing to do with his parents’ mysterious deaths. Following their demise, he’s adopted by an avenging policeman (James Remar) who all but gives him a license to kill by encouraging him to channel his “desire” into something more positive — like exacting justice on criminals.

Dexter also has a girlfriend (Julie Benz). “We’re both damaged,” he says. “We’re perfect for each other.” He has a caring sister (Jennifer Carpenter) — who’s also a cop and has no clue about his secret life — and a boss (“New York Undercover’s” Lauren Velez) who has the hots for him. Only one person (Sgt. Doakes, played by Erik King) suspects all’s not right with Dexter. But Mr. King mostly scowls and peppers his few lines with an expletive.

As the title character, Mr. Hall’s primary appeal is his charm and killer good looks. Fans, no doubt, will tune in for that, and there’s also a mystery in the works: another serial killer who presents Dexter with a creepy challenge. Both will keep you interested for a while. But, as a series, “Dexter” appears to be headed for a very short life.

Robyn-Denise Yourse

Feast with Nigella

Nigella Lawson is coming to the Food Network — and it’s about time.

The English author of several best-selling cookbooks is one of the world’s best known TV chefs, with one show, “Nigella Bites,” airing on E!’s Style Network.

Her new series, “Nigella Feasts,” bows Sunday at 1 p.m.

Miss Lawson is, indeed, a very British lady — her father was chancellor of the exchequer for Margaret Thatcher — but her popularity knows no borders. “I think food just cuts through everything,” she says by phone from New York. “I have found that wherever I am in the world, cab drivers, everyone, wants to talk about food.”

Fans of “Nigella Bites” should enjoy the new show, which is also filmed in the host’s London kitchen. “I like that mixture between movement and conversation and close-up, beautifully lit shots of the food,” she says. “I feel passionately that the food itself as it is looks wonderful. If I’m slicing the lime in half and squeezing the juice out, luckily I have a cameraman who can make it look as lovely to the viewer as it does to me.”

Miss Lawson’s great ability to communicate how sensual eating and cooking can be has had its detractors, who accuse her of making “food porn.”

“I did myself coin the phrase ‘gastro porn’ many, many years back in my first book,” she says. “I think there are obvious similarities about exciting appetites which you personally are not going to satisfy.”

But, she argues, “there’s something about food that’s about communication and about sharing … . I don’t make programs to titillate. I don’t feel bad if someone is watching a program and will never cook, if they just think, ‘That looks delicious.’ How can that be a bad thing?”

One class of people might disagree.

“When I was on the Style Network, someone told me they were showing my programs on a loop during Fashion Week, and there was a circle of starved models just watching,” Miss Lawson says with a laugh. “To them, it was pornography because they don’t eat.”

Madrid just banned too-thin models from its catwalks, and Miss Lawson weighs in on the controversy: “They shouldn’t necessarily be condemned for being thin, although some of them have eating problems. The problem is that 45-year-old people are told to look like them.”

Miss Lawson calls herself “greedy and a food obsessive” and admits that “I’m capable of shutting down a production while I talk about what to have for lunch.”

She’s not stick thin, but she’s still one of Britain’s most beautiful women.

“My husband’s not really interested in [food], but I can’t stop myself from talking about it all the time,” she admits.

That husband is Charles Saatchi, an advertising guru who owns Britain’s largest private collection of modern art. It sounds like he doesn’t know how lucky he is.

Kelly Jane Torrance

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