Damages: The Complete First Season

Damages: The Complete First Season
Damages, the latest in a string of acclaimed, quality dramas coming out of pay cable in the U.S., flips some well-worn television clichés. It’s a serialised story of malfeasance in which a CEO is under siege for fraud from a large group of innocent class action plaintiffs who’ve hired a "swims with sharks” lawyer to bring them justice. It’s the story of an innocent newbie lawyer brought into the scary world of high-stakes litigation, losing her innocence in the process. It sounds like The Firm meets Erin Brockovich but in the hands of Glenn Close and Ted Danson, who face off as against-type adversaries, Damages is seriously gripping television. Danson, who plays accused billionaire Arthur Frobisher, points out the secret in one of this set’s featurettes: their casting, he comments, plays into the show’s vibe, because while he’s the villain, he remains Sam from Cheers in the minds of many viewers; Glenn Close, who plays Patty Hewes with the flesh-tearing enthusiasm of Michael Douglas in Wall Street, is supposed to be the white hat, yet one can’t help but remember Fatal Attraction. Add tough but inexperienced new law recruit Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) and Damages starts to take on the "battle for her soul” underpinnings of Platoon. Damages raises the TV stakes in a couple of different ways: since Danson charms and Close seethes, the tension of who’s really good and who’s evil remains throughout the series; and for a legal show that revolves around accounting and paperwork, it never ends up in a dramatic courtroom showdown. Instead, the show wraps around a present day Ellen Parsons, found covered in blood in a Manhattan street, accused of murdering her fiancé; the show backs up six months to her new job with Patty Hewes and lets the narrative catch up over its 13 episodes. Better than average featurettes include one actor-heavy "making of,” as well as a creator-heavy one, but throws in an interactive guide to class action law, for those who aren’t caught up with their Law & Order reruns. The law is pretty secondary to Damages though, in the best possible way. Come to watch a seasoned pro like Glenn Close sink her teeth into an ongoing role (her second for network FX since guesting on The Shield) but stay to revel in the second coming of Ted Danson, doing the best work of his career. Plus: two episode commentaries, deleted scenes. (FX/Sony)