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Yes, I’m Still Watching…FX’s Damages

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Yes, I’m Still Watching…Damages

February 25th, 2009

Oh, Damages.

When the show debuted in 2007, there was something very fresh about its structure, something that I couldn’t really put my finger on at the time. It was a show that brought to the table some great acting talent, in particular strong work from Glenn Close and a career re-making role for Ted Danson, and a flash-forward plotline that at the very least kept you guessing of how the show was going to traverse from Point A to Point B. I never had a problem with either of these two elements: I thought the show started on a good note with the introduction of Ellen Parsons as a naive young attorney in the cutthroat world of Patty Hewes, and I felt the end of the season was similarly sophisticated in its handling of the long known climax.

But when Damages began its second season, I was reminded that the journey between Points A and B was more than a bit meandering, and while a few stops along the road were worthwhile (Hi, Zjelko Ivanek!) there were other storylines that felt like killing time. I began to think back to another show that had followed almost exactly the same road, a show that I once thought quite fondly of and now have very little interest in. But I didn’t want to, early in the season, so quickly link Damages with 24, a show that I have more or less written off.

As the season has gone on, however, the similarities are getting tougher to ignore: the show has become about a constant state of well-acted but poorly executed elevation. Characters and storylines are tossed aside at the writers’ whim as soon as they find something more interesting, and mysteries are solved without resonance but instead with a sense that one can’t linger on one moment too long before the next storyline needs to get started. If each of these arcs felt like they were being sufficiently wrapped up, that we got out of them all that we could, I’d be fine with this: but Damages, like 24 in its hey day, is all about leaving you wanting more, and the bad news for Damages is that I’m starting to see through it all too clearly.

Which says more for the writers’ reliance on the same ol’ bag of tricks than it does for the actors who are at their whim, a disconnect broad strong enough on the latter end to keep me watching but weak enough on the former to keep me at an emotional distance.

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