Damages ends tonight in a 90 minute season finale!
This is the kind of event television that might even prompt me to watch it live — kicking it old school like it’s 2005.
The biggest mystery, it seems, is what the Sam Hill is going on in that hotel room. Did Ellen actually shoot Patty? Is there someone else in that room? What’s Wes’ involvement in it all?
I’m beginning to think that Patty and Ellen are somehow in on this together. I don’t know how, but I have a feeling that they’re setting that cop up and this is all an elaborate ploy.
Or, maybe that isn’t Patty’s blood that she’s (disgustingly) smearing all over her face as she staggers to the elevator. I’d like to think that Ellen didn’t actually shoot Patty, but maybe gross bearded corrupt cop. Or even Wes (sorry, Maggie. I know. So pretty.).
Finally, after more than a year off the air, Damages has returned with its second season. (By the way, I’m so full of shit. I just watched the first season this fall, so I’ve only had to wait a few months. And I’ve kept myself plenty busy with whiskey sodas and cutethingsfallingasleep.org)
But the second season premiere did not disappoint, developing the characters and advancing the plot with the same momentum of the first season. I pity anyone who tries to jump into the second season without having been along for the ride from the beginning, but here’s a summary of where we are now.
Things have changed since Ellen walked off the dock at the end of season one. The ingenue we once knew is now a functional emotional trainwreck in light of her fiance’s murder. She’s drinking her whiskey straight, being combative at group therapy and, most notably, sassing the federal agents she’s cooperating with to destroy Patty Hewes. Patty, on the other hand, seems to have dulled her fangs a little bit. In light of her guilty feelings toward her actions in the Frobisher case, she’s thrown herself into public service and philanthropy. She still likes to tell people to eff off, but she doesn’t seem to relish it as much as she once did. Plus she’s got a hot new haircut — much softer and longer and less guest-on-Greta-Van-Sustren.
The action of this season surrounds William Hurt as the Scientist Who Knows Too Much. Once again, though, instead of the mysterious corporate operatives murdering him for what he knows, they’ve murdered his wife. Who, by the way, is totally Aunt Becky from Full House a dead ringer for Aunt Becky from full house (but was actually April O’Neil in the second and third Ninja Turtle movies). But that is neither here nor there.
Just like last season, there’s an ominous sepia-toned flash forward with a gun-toting Ellen playing cat and mouse (she’s the cat) with an unseen person. Well, it’s not necessarily so much cat and mouse as it is cat and mouse that has been bound, drugged, gagged and tortured for the truth.
So that’s basically where we’re at. And I’m really pleased with the way things are progressing. The season premiere was very cinematic — a quality I’ve always admired about the show. The second episode slowed the pace a little bit, but there always enough twists and turns to keep Damages the best drama on television. And, yes, I’m including Battlestar Galactica in that category. Oh, yeah. I went there.
If you haven’t seen the first season, Netflix it. Then forget everything I just wrote and start the second season. You’ll be obsessed.
Best Dramas: Damages, True Blood, Mad Men, Terminator
Anything I could say about the first three shows has been said a million times before by every critic. They’re just good TV. As for Terminator, come on kids give it a chance! Shirley Manson as urinal-bot mom, awkward terminator humor (see Marissa’s #4), trips to Mexico for burritos… how can you go wrong?
Best International Reality Show: Project Runway Australia
I think the contestants in this version may have out polite-d the Canadian version. The show is very similar to the first season of the American version except the Tim Gunn guy looks like the old dude from the Six Flags commercials. The contestants are all loveable, and are even nice enough to pretend they’re interested in meeting Kelly Rowland. Sadly, Kristy Hinze as host is not as funny/scary as Iman but is comparable to Heidi Klum.
Best Unaired Commercial: AFSCME
My favorite Youtube discovery of ’08, audio NSFW.
Dead Set – Also on Dan’s list, it’s just fun filler and more like a zombie movie broken up into 5 parts than an actual TV show.
Breaking Bad – It’s the dad from Malcolm in the Middle as a high school chemistry teacher who brews meth and uses Mr. Wizard-esque science against drug dealers. Bryan Cranston looks and acts identical to my high school chem teacher, right down to the moustache. No wonder he won an Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a drama.
Summer Heights High – Comedian Chris Lilley plays an obnoxious rich girl, an overdramatic drama teacher, and a Polynesian break dancer who all attend the same high school. The series ends with a Hamlet 2 style musical denouncing drugs and sluttiness and lauding the drama teacher for his work keeping kids clean. The show also contains an unusually large amount of penis graffiti (always a win in my book).
The Funniest 7 Minutes of a Music Themed Episode: Haven’t you heard?
What can I say, I’m an idiot who loves juvenile stuff. Here’s 7 minutes of The Bird Is The Word jokes (ignore the rest of the episode since it’s crap).
The new year is upon us. And now we’ve got the hangovers and gym memberships and debt-free living self-help books to prove it. But at TiFaux, we’ve got our priorities in line.
On that note, all this week we are going to look back at 2008 and examine the best of the year that was. And, in a cute little twist, we’re not doing our top five shows — we’re doing our top five anythings. This can be an entire year’s worth of one show, one actor’s performance, one funny joke, etc. We’re mixing it up so we don’t end up all saying that 30 Rock is amazing in different wordings.
I’m up first because I’m a control freak. So, here we go…
Glenn Close and Zeljko Ivanek win Emmys for Damages
This was a series whose first season ended in 2007, but I only watched it in 2008 — that’s why I’m including it on this list. It’s my blog so I can do what I want. But I will try to make it timely by saying that Close and Ivanek won well-deserved Emmys this year. Which is true.
It’s easy to single out the performances as the greatest thing about Damages’ first season — but I think that would be inaccurate. The great thing about Damages was not only the taut pacing and menacing tone, but just how uncommonly focused the storytelling was. This was essentially a season-long movie, intricately written and planned, and slowly rolled out bit by riveting bit.
Damages’ success is the result of several elements synergizing — the strength of the performances (Close’s venom, Rose Byrne’s sweet deadpan, Zeljko Ivanek’s anguished expressions), savvy directing and writing that packs both an intellectual and emotional punch. I have no idea what they’re going to do for the second season (starting Wednesday!!), but I’m totally on board.
SNL: Virgania Horsen’s Hot Air Balloon Rides
This was really a great year for women on SNL. Admittedly, there weren’t that many of them (a freakishly low number, in fact), but all of them emerged as stars. Amy Poehler came into her own as a playful and goofy sprite (see the Sarah Palin rap),Tina Fey re-emerged in her well-publicized star turn as the would-be veep and Kristen Wiig began to cement her status as the show’s rising star.
And my favorite thing Wiig has ever done remains this fake commercial from the (fabulous) Fey-hosted episode that was the first one following the strike. Virgania Horsen (who returned with a Pony Express commercial this season) is a mix of bizarre and oddly loveable, selling her hot air balloon rides with all the enthusiasm of an awkward fifth grader trying to give a rousing book report.
It’s all about delivery in this sketch (with some support from delightfully shoddy special effects), and Wiig nails it with the awful posture and stilted delivery.
The set design on Pushing Daisies
There’s a lot to love on Pushing Daisies — the tart dialogue, the adorableness of Kristin Chenowith and Lee Pace, and the fun storylines. But what ties everything together is the show’s wonderful technicolor aesthetic. The colors are bright and the sets aren’t restricted by realism. There’s so much packed into every shot — it’s truly a case of “more is more.” The look of the show (including the costuming) makes everything work — instantly allowing you to suspend your disbelief.
But these two horror-inspired shows (zombies and vampires, respectively) were the best new series to emerge out of 2008 — a vast wasteland as far as new programming goes. Dead Set had a run of five episodes, but I’ll continue to watch True Blood for its campy sense of humor and the creepy mysteries of this alternate reality world (even though they killed off the only guy who had a good accent).
Lecherously watching men’s water polo during the Olympics
This is the face she makes before she unhinges her jaw and swallows you whole.
There’s a whole world out there beyond the networks — you know this. There are a hell of a lot of new original programs on cable, some of which are damn good. However, there are way too many to keep up with — especially the new brand of “woman of a certain age” dramas.
Then there’s FX’s Damages, which recently gleaned two surprise Emmys (by my standards) for Glenn Close and Zeljko Ivanek. If you ask me, they were well earned (even though Michael Emerson from Lost should get his due before the show ends).
Even though I’m not fully through season one (for all I know there’s some sort of awful deus ex machina — but I doubt it), I must insist you all watch it. The first season is out on DVD, so you can take a sick day, hunker down in your PJs, put on a cucumber mask and get ready to see some high-quality, superbly-paced legal thriller. This is no basic cable Grisham.
I’ll give you the basics to whet your appetite. The first episode features Ellen Parsons, a porcelain-faced, superstar rookie lawyer, in an elevator. She’s covered with blood. Someone’s clearly been killed.
That’s when they start messing with you. Flashback to several months earlier — law firms court Ellen to be their bright young star. This includes Patty Hewes (although Hewes and Associates is enough of a big deal that they don’t really have to chase anyone to get who they want).
Hewes is in the middle of an intense legal battle representing the former employees of Arthur Frobisher, played by a white-haired Ted Danson. Frobisher is a multi-gazillionaire who made even more gazillions by dumping his company stock just before it tanked.
Suffice to say, all of these things are connected. The corporate crime, the ingenue covered in blood, the steely litigator. It’s too much to explain in one post and more satisfying to watch play out in the nutso pilot.
One of the most refreshing parts about Damages is the fact that the characters aren’t predictable. They’re types, but they’re not lazy caricatures. Glenn Close is a pit bull (please, don’t let that woman distract you when I use that term), but she’s not invincible or completely soulless (mostly soulless, maybe). Frobisher is a powerful corporate criminal, but he’s also a huge softie and a petulant child. Fisk, his attorney (played by Ivanek), is particularly conflicted as the man who does Frobisher’s dirty work — the guilt eats him from the inside out.
The best part about Damages, and the reason I keep watching it until I fall asleep at night, is that the tension is excellently delivered. The scenes shot in the present day, a grim series of scenes shot on grainy film, divulge just enough juicy morsels every episode to change your entire perception of what has happened so far in the series.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the performances, which are pretty excellent all around. Glenn Close is psychotically awesome as the shark-like Patty Hewes — she’s got this icy stare that doesn’t give a damn thing away. Even Ted Danson is pretty great as Frobisher — it’s a far cry from the loveable barkeep Sam Malone, which every associates him with.
So, yeah. Get Damages on DVD and make a weekend out of it. Don’t consume in moderation — swallow it whole.
And while it’s been a few weeks without new network programming, we’ve barely started into the chasm of summer programming. There’s going to be a lot of steaming crap out there, but it’s not all for naught. Or, as a TV blogger, I like to think that there’s something out there worth writing about.
As such, here’s a bit of a guide to things that you can watch this summer only feel moderate guilt.
IFC: You probably get IFC and don’t take advantage of it. However, there are a ton of movies on it that you’ve been meaning to watch forever. Plus, there are reruns of The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman (right, in bras), which is an incredible series (full post TK).
Bravo: What the hell were we doing with our lives before Bravo reinvented itself as the gay network? Kathy Griffin’s My Life On the D-List and Project Runway both have new episodes this summer.
Lite reality TV on cable: We, here at TiFaux, are somewhat skeptical of reality TV. Me, admittedly, somewhat less so — but we all like to keep a safe distance from network offerings like Wife Swap or the celebrity-eats-itself shows like Living Lohan. However, there are some decent, watchable diversions available. There’s The Mole on NBC (get it before it’s gone, folks) as well as Bravo-esque competitive reality shows on HGTV and Food Network. Design Star and The Next Food Network Star are both very much “Hey, guys! Me too!” as far as unoriginal formats, but when you’ve got a winning formula, interesting cast members and high production values, it’s hard (at least for me) to not be somewhat charmed.
The Olympics: First up, two words: men’s gymnastics. Rowr. Something you have to look forward to this summer on TiFaux is posts where I e-catcall the athletes saying things like “ride that pommel horse, son” and “I’ll show you a floor routine.” It’ll be totally lecherous fun. But, more to the point, it can be quite fun to get caught up on the fervor. And, if you’re like me, you can get swept up in some uncharacteristic unabashed patriotism. Even if you aren’t necessarily into watching big gymnast arms, there are plenty of sports for everyone to enjoy.
The Daily Show coverage of the presidential election: Historically, The Daily Show’s election coverage has been some of its best material. Like all creative-types, they work best when they’ve got something to say and it’s hard to not have something to say all about the election tomfoolery going around.
Catch up on DVDs of TV shows: There’s a ton of shit you haven’t been watching, most likely because it’s on premium cable. Weeds. Dexter. Big Love. I can vouch for at least the first two — and you can totally burn through each of them within two weeks. Weeds has three seasons of about a dozen half hour episodes (less than that, if you count the theme, credits and the fact that they clock in at like 27 minutes). Dexter has two seasons of hour-long episodes (about 10-12 each). These shows are both coming back and deserve your attention. There’s also stuff like Damages, The Closer and Rescue Me — shows that I have never watched because they’re on weird networks, but have earned a substantial critical following.
This weekend I took F/X up on its offer of a day full of Damages, and I don’t regret it. Damages has a few little quirks that become even more obvious when an entire season is viewed over a two-day period, but overall it’s an intense, engrossing show, and I can’t wait to see the final resolution tomorrow.
One of the reasons I think it works so well (and I’m sure I’m not the only one saying this) is because it’s essentially a show about two women. It would have been different — and probably really bad — if the Glenn Close character and the young lawyer she corrupts were both men. This way the show can be about women and power and ambition and balancing relationships and work, in addition to a murder mystery involving a corrupt businessman.
The set-up seems at first like the drama version of The Devil Wears Prada: ruthless and successful boss tortures/mentors/uses young, innocent subordinate. And in a lot of ways I think that’s a good comparison. Glenn Close’s character, Patty Hewes, doesn’t care about you, her insignificant employee. It’s a mistake to think that she would care about you just because she’s a woman. The young lawyer makes that mistake over and over again, treating Patty like a friend rather than a terrifying boss, which she never would do if Patty was a man. This allows Patty to do her job even better than she did before: Her subordinates are practically asking to be manipulated and used. She can do whatever she likes, and it usually works.
Of course, now that the season is wrapping up, Patty’s having to face some consequences for her winner-takes-all philosophy. And frankly, that makes me a little sad, and a little scared. I don’t like a powerless Patty; she’s supposed to be the one who gets things done, not has things done to her. And I’m scared because I think Patty likes being in this position even less — and that does not bode well for Young Blackmailing Associate. (BTW, shouldn’t Y. B. A. have learned that blackmailing is totally not awesome by now?) In a show where we’ve come to expect major reversals, I don’t think Patty has been beaten down — not by a long shot.
Overall, the acting is superb (in addition to Glenn Close, Ted Danson and his lawyer are particularly great), the writing is high above average, and the twists are fun to predict. And there are great, dramatic, original female characters — proof it can be done.