Michael C. Hall, <EM>Dexter</EM> Michael C. Hall, Dexter

He had us at the first drop of blood. Thirty-three seconds into the opening credits of Dexter on Showtime, the title character nicks his neck with a razor and the red stuff starts to ooze. Next he spears his breakfast meat with a brutal jab. Eggs are cracked without mercy. Nobody prepares breakfast like Dexter Morgan and nobody makes forensic science — not to mention serial killing, Dexter's side gig from the Miami police department — such a turn-on. With the cult drama's first season (albeit with the naked and deadlier moments sliced out) coming to network TV this week (Sundays at 10 pm/ET, CBS), we thought we'd gush about what makes Dexter such grisly fun.

It's in our veins. As Miami's top blood-spatter specialist, Dexter (Michael C. Hall) sees artistry where others only see arteries. "Dexter finds everything in a crime scene — serenity, redemption, even bliss — and it all starts with the blood," says John Goldwyn, executive producer on the series that splashes some 100 gallons of fake plasma per season. Blood is practically its own character, whether it's dotting the microscope slides Dexter hides in his AC unit or sprayed on a crime-scene wall. As a lawyer says to Dexter in one episode, "I guess it's safe to say that blood is your life." To which Dex replies with ghoulish glee, "Safe to say."

Dexter slays us. Although the series gets gruesome — take Dexter's nemesis, the Ice Truck Killer, who drains his victims' bodies until they're bone-dry — the drama never fails to amuse. Dexter's frequent voice-overs are a showcase for his acid wit, like when he worries about the future of his little sideline. ("Eventually most serial killers get caught," he says, sighing, "and there's not much of a plan.") But the funniest character may be cranky, ever-suspicious Sergeant Doakes (Erik King), whom we've taken to imitating around the office: "Where's my blood report, Sparky?"

Go, murderer, go! Dexter is the first serial killer on TV whom fans actually root for. So what if he doles out lethal injections like flu shots? He's murdering for altruistic reasons — to rid the world of real psychokillers! "Dexter turns all your moral judgments about murdering upside down," King says. Plus, Dexter's a nice guy. Exec producer Sara Colleton says, "He's good with kids, he's a great brother to his sister, and he's loyal and understanding. You kinda want to take him home to Mom." Well, almost.

Death becomes him. It's hard to explain Dexter's sex appeal. His day job alone would be a deal breaker for most potential mates. But the guy has to beat them off with a stick. Rita Bennett (Julie Benz) comes on to Dex until he relents, which only fuels the fire of Lieutenant LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez), who can't stop flirting. "Michael's a very good-looking actor and he brings out Dexter's vulnerabilities," Benz says. "This character clearly suffered as a child, and he's struggling to understand his demons. He's a man in pain and needs healing and, hey, that's hot!"

It's t-t-terrifying! Put it this way: You could go a whole season on CSI: Miami without seeing anything half as nightmare-inducing as those severed fingertips frozen in a block of ice from Episode 2. If you haven't seen it yet — well, don't say we didn't warn you!

Check out Dexter clips in our Online Video Guide.

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