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Even if you see the world only in pure black & white, it might be difficult to dislike Dexter (Michael C. Hall), a murderous Robin Hood who cunningly takes life from the sinful to seek justice for victims who died at their hands.

"Dexter," an addictive Showtime series (10 p.m. Sunday), is enjoyably challenging TV. Its lead character is an anti-hero to rival "The Shield's" Vic Mackey, but the show is not avert-your-eyes-bloody (much less so than FX's "Nip/Tuck"), and it has a surprising sense of humor, often culminating from Dexter's ever-present voice-over narration that lets viewers get a glimpse inside his twisted, but curiously humanistic mind.

Bright, personable and articulate, Dexter is that guy whom neighbors would be utterly shocked to discover has been arrested for murder. Actually, Dexter is more socially well-adjusted than most killers, and he's not even a loner. He's dating a beautiful single mom, Rita (Julie Benz), who's "in her own way, as damaged as me," Dexter states in the very first episode. Rita has an abusive relationship in her past that prevents her from having an intimate relationship. That's fine by Dexter, who proclaims, "I don't understand sex, the act of sex. It's always seemed so undignified."

He works as a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami-Dade police department, Dexter is an easy-going, diligent forensic specialist who's well-liked by his co-workers, including his cop sister (Jennifer Carpenter) and his boss, Lt. LaGuerta (Lauren Velez, "Oz"). But he manages to run up against Sgt. Doakes (Erik King), who finds Dexter creepy and contemptible. Yet has no idea how creepy Dexter really is!

In the seaon premiere, Doakes is the show's most glaring false note, too suspicious of Dexter and too vocal about his dislike of the guy. Subsequent episodes reveal Doakes to be more than one-dimensional; he's not just a foil for Dexter.

Flashbacks show Dexter as a child, learning "the code of Harry" from his understanding foster father, played by James Remar. Harry was a Miami detective who came to recognize his son's homicidal tendencies and tried to channel his dark needs toward the pursuit of justice.

Hall's performance is remarkable for its controlled nature. As Dexter, he erases memories of his last role -- "Six Feet Under's" uptight, gay mortician, David Fisher, playing a character who believes he's so emotionally detached that he must fake his way through all pleasant human interaction. It's a very challenging, almost double role, requiring Hall to play to viewers who know Dexter's secret and those around him on screen who do not. Hall handles it with the necessarily subtle nonchalance.

"Dexter" is based on the novel "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" by Jeff Lindsay, who wholeheartedly approves of Showtime's interpretation of his books, and in particular, Hall's role. Lindsay said he was inspired to write the story after attending a Kiwanis meeting as a guest speaker.

"As I looked out across the room, the idea just popped into my head that serial murder isn't always a bad thing," Lindsay said at a press conference, creating laughs at his morbid sense of humor, which is also evident in Showtime's series. "If that seems a little flippant, I apologize, but it really did happen that way."

By the end of "Dexter's" 12-episode first season, viewers will learn what made him a killer. But will Dexter ever get his due? Producers haven't plotted that far into the future. Filming of the 3rd series, due to begin in May 2009, the show has also recently been approved for a 4th and 5th season.

"Every week Dexter explores a part of humanity or something that's a very human bit of behavior," said EP Sara Colleton. "We've always sort of laughingly said, 'Year five, if we are so lucky, he's finally going to become fully human, realize what he's done, and kill himself.' But other than that as a joke, we haven't really contemplated his comeuppance because he has a very strict moral code that he observes. Within the confines of that, he's a very moral person."

Hall understands how viewers might feel some internal conflict while watching "Dexter." Many fans of the show have stated that even though Dexter only kills other killers, it is still quite morbid to be find yourself rooting for him.

"It's not black, it's not white," he said. "Dexter is a cowboy who wears a 10-gallon gray hat. People should be torn. I think it fosters a sense of conflict, 'Oh my God, I'm rooting for someone who is doing something that I, along with pretty much everybody else would, on paper, suggest is reprehensible.' "