Favortie Things: Why Aren’t You Watching Damages?

by

Marc,

Damages_web2_1024x768.jpgDid you ever like something so much that you couldn’t stop talking about it?  So much that you wanted to tell the entire world about it?  Release your love on the interwebs?  That’s how much I love Damages.  Firstly, I can’t believe you don’t watch it.  Secondly, I can’t believe no one else is watching it.  What is wrong with you people?

I discovered Damages after the first season actually aired.  I was in New York last fall and, as usual, bored out of my mind.  I was browsing around the TV section on iTunes.  That’s when I noticed they were offering the pilot for free.  I thought, “What the hell?”.  So I downloaded and watched.  By the time the credits were rolling on that first episode, I had started downloading the whole rest of the season.  It was so…so…so…fresh.  Fresh is the only word I can think of to describe it.  The only other show in recent memory that made me feel like this was Arrested Development.  Totally different genre, but it evoked a similar response; that I wanted every single person I encounter to watch and become a fan.

When I tell people about my love for the show, the first question I get is, “What’s it about?”.  That’s where the problems start.  Damages is the type of series that is impossible to explain sufficiently and in a coherent manner.  On the surface it’s a drama set in the world of law and lawyers, but that makes it sound boring and procedural.  Dig down even just a little bit and you discover that it’s an intricately woven whodunit, a morality play about our backwards society and a brilliant indictment of the “powerful” and their world.  The first season follows a young lawyer (Rose Byrne) as she gets her first job at a very successful litigation firm run by a driven female attorney (Glenn Close).  The plot revolves around the case their working on, an Enron-like situation where the head of a large corporation (Ted Danson) sold his company stock, making billions, just before the price collapsed and all of his employees lost their entire retirement and savings.  As the story unfolds, you begin to see that the situation is much more complicated and goes so very deep.

The entire season takes place in a series of flashforwards, flashbacks and chucks of present time.  It can be difficult to follow at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s absolutely riveting.  Damages is not the type of show where you can skip one moment.  If you do, you risk missing a clue or detail that can unlock a crucial thread of the story.  Not that you would be able to look away anyway. I cannot explain to you how many times that show has ended with me breathing heavily, mouth agape, gasping.

zelivan.JPG

Zeljko Ivanek

A great deal of the joy of Damages is the story and unconventional method of telling it, but I don’t think it could be pulled off by a group of any other actors.  Exhibit A: This show has made me utter something that I never in a million years could have imagined saying, “Ted Danson is a really great actor.”  They’re all great actors.  Glenn Close somehow makes a conniving, manipulative, bitch just sympathetic enough that you stay engaged.  Tate Donovan (really) plays her second with enough backbone that you know he relishes his part of the game.  Rose Byrne is sweet and eager, but doesn’t stay that way for long and her transformation is mesmerizing to watch.  And let’s not forget my very very very favorite character actor of all time Zeljko Ivanek.  You may not know his name, but I know you know his face and his work.  He is SUPERB as a foil for Glenn Close’s ruthless Patty.  All these characters are bolstered by amazing supporting performances by Peter Facinelli, Phillip Bosco, Peter Riegert and Donal Logue (yay!).

I was recently at an event of the New York Times Arts and Leisure Weekend series with the cast and creators of Damages.  It was very clear that everyone there knew that they were a part of something special. Glenn Close was dazzling on stage as she answered questions about her motivation, character and shooting in her home city of New York.  Tate Donovan, who admittedly, I haven’t given much thought to over the years, charmingly entertained his coworkers and the audience with funny asides and anecdotes about on-set life.  As the creators, brothers Glenn and Todd Kessler and college friend Daniel Zelman, described their unconventional writing/shooting style (some of the plot is undecided at the beginning of production and shapes up based on where the actors take it) the audience audibly gasped with wonder.  How can a show as tight and intricate as Damages come together like that?  The answer is in the quality of the producers, writers and actors.  They all REALLY believe in making a high quality series that can stand alone as great art.  (Yes I believe television can be art.  That’s a post for another time though)

Season 2 of Damages just started again on FX. This season William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden and Timothy Olyphant have been added to the already spectacular cast. If you’re able to, try to catch an episode.  I bet before the credits roll, you’ll be finding a way to go back to the beginning and watch season one.  If you do that I promise to keep my I-told-you-sos to a minimum.

XOXO

Jamie

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3 Responses to “Favortie Things: Why Aren’t You Watching Damages?”

  1. emma Says:

    Couldn’t agree more – Damages is brilliant television!

    We must discuss details at a later date.

  2. Kelly Says:

    Way to go Jamie. Please feel free to hand one more distraction to me on a silver platter. I read your post and thought, “Donal…well, I could just watch the pilot.” That was two days and six episodes ago (on Hulu.com).

    My predilection for ruddy-faced, doughy-bodied Irishmen got me to watch the first and the FANTASTIC storyline brought me back for more. Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Jamie Says:

    Anytime Kelly. Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you about my favorite book series next.

    I love Donal Logue. Of course, he’s in Damages for about 5 minutes, but still. It’s good enough to stand alone without him. 🙂

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