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Ted Danson

"Damages"; a review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

Damn, "Damages" is a good show. At least, after the first episode. If this new series, which just premiered on FX Networks, can sustain the high quality of writing, direction, acting and editing I saw last night, it will be better than "The Sopranos" and leave the abundant, slightly mushy TV police procedure/lawyer shows in the dust.

Wisely, FX immediately rolled over "Damages" for another showing at the close of its premiere. It's the first time I've ever watched a new TV series back-to-back. And am I ever glad. I missed minutiae in the first take of "Damages" that were really important to my understanding of the show.

"Damages" comes in the wake of Enron. High energy CEO Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson, never better) has pumped his company then dumped his employees. Patty Hewes (Glenn Close, as usual: superb) is an equally high-powered head of a New York law firm that goes for the throat, especially for folks like Frobisher. Close's character is a fascinating mix of über intelligence, understanding and ruthlessness.

Glenn Close and Rose Byrne

Glenn Close and Rose Byrne

Patty is high on the potential of an aspiring, young attorney the firm has just hired. She's Ellen Parsons, a smart middle class gal, played by Rose Byrne, now being seen in the just released sci-fi feature, "Sunshine." Ms. Byrne has one of those delicate and simple faces of beauty which seems to reflect, but so understatedly, every small emotion behind those big, lovely eyes of hers. Young Ellen is a superlative candidate for any law firm, but accepts a position from the Hewes firm just as Patty intensifies her legal moves on Frobisher.

Ellen is single, but engaged to her roommate, David, played by Noah Bean. Early in the first episode of "Damages" we find that David's sister, Katie (Anastasia Griffith) is about to open a swanky little bar and restaurant in New York. Her financial backer is Arthur Frobisher. Patty is so shrewd, it makes Ellen wonder if she got her new job because Patty would have a closer connection to Katie in the court and media battle soon to play out over Frobisher's scuttling of his own business that has monetarily taken down so many of his former employees. It seems Katie had done some catering for billionaire Frobisher in Florida on the very day in question when he covertly gave his broker the sell order of his stock causing the company's collapse. Hmmmm.

But by the close of the first hour of this new series, we're not only wondering about that possible connection but also: why does it seems that the Patty Hewes firm doesn't want Katie to say anything about her contact with Frobisher. The slaying of Katie's dog is the chilling message for Katie to keep her mouth shut. And we don't even know, for sure, if Katie is really involved in some way with Frobisher or not.

Furthermore, a principal character in the series is found murdered in the first installment and everything, after one hour of "Damages," points to our heroine, Ellen Parker as the killer. Elly's last line in the initial segment is, "Get me a lawyer!" I can only say: Well, get me a second episode of "Damages," quick!

This series can go all kinds of ways, but wherever it takes us, I'm betting the journey will be well worth all the time spent watching it. All that director Alan Coulter and the team of writers (which includes Glenn and Todd Kessler and Daniel Zelman) must do is maintain the excellence of hour one of "Damages," a truly riveting cable TV program.

Other lines of dialogue make for a good end to this rant of mine, as they give the flavor and tone of the show I saw last night and the characters in it. Ellen says something about hope. Then, Patty responds, "Hope, that's the thing with feathers." Ellen smiles and replies: "Emily Dickinson. The bitch will say anything."

Watch trailers for "Damages" at FX Networks.
Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net
Copyright © 2007, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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