A Network Is Willing to Pay [For] DAMAGES

Last bit of TV news for the day: I can think of about half-a-dozen canceled series that I would rather have seen saved than Damages, but it’s Damages that has been rescued from the scrap heap of cable by DirecTV (which already performed a more valuable service by rescuing Friday Night Lights). At the moment the deal is for the episodes to air “only on DirecTV,” but that doesn’t seem likely to last; someone will presumably pick up the rights to air the new episodes later. Unless everybody else also got tired of the show after the first season.

Damages, which was an entertainingly absurd melodrama in that first season, staggered through a critically-panned second season and a third season that, while better, didn’t really suggest that the show had much more left to say. It was also easy to dislike because it eventually came to embody some of the worst traits of “quality” cable television: cliche’d plots and characters given a prestigious veneer through the use of big-name actors (many of whom — not Close, though — seem to have been cast for name value rather than their appropriateness for the part or whether they can disappear into the character). And more than any show since Heroes it seemed to embody the problems a heavily serialized show can face after its first season: having put all its eggs into coming up with one season-long story, it spends the rest of its run trying to live up to that one year when it had it all together, and finding excuses to keep certain characters appearing on the show for no good reason.

But, having said all that, I know the show has fans, and I can never really feel bad about a show getting un-canceled. (It’s not like Damages took away a spot that would have gone to some other show — at least I don’t think so.) So DirecTV it is, and we can assume that more shows will be trying to get in on this method of survival, where it’s possible.

The question now is how much the show — which was very expensive, another reason why FX was unwise to guarantee it two seasons after its first season under-performed in the ratings — will have to reduce its budget under the new arrangement, and how that will affect it. I could actually see it helping: if they can’t afford big-name actors to support Close and Byrne, they might have to dial down the stunt casting, which has not helped the show get better ratings or do better creatively.

Jeremy Mongeau, who really dislikes Damages, has dedicated much of his Twitter feed to everything that’s bad about its return. My favourite: “The hilarious part about a reduced Damages budget is that they already over-use already shot scenes to pad out flash-forwards, so now at least 40% of the show each week will be the same flash-forward of Glenn Close dramatically yelling at Tate Donovan in her office.”