Monday, January 25, 2010

Why I don't write about 'Damages'

Because new readers come to this blog all the time, I often have to deal with repeated questions like "Why didn't you ever write about 'The Wire' season 3?" or, even more common, "Why don't you write about my favorite show?" With the season three premiere of "Damages" beginning tonight, I thought I'd head off any queries about that at the pass with a link to this column from the start of season two, in which I explain why the show just isn't for me. I haven't watched the season three episodes FX sent for review, and I'm not going to be doing any future blogging on it, so click through and you'll know why.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

So when's the Damages write-up coming?

Jen said...

Amazing timing that you post this, just as my very dim office manager starts raving about how excited she is for this and asking if any of us watch it. My response: If Alan Sepinwall doesn't write about it, it doesn't get play on my TV.

Zac F. said...

How about a giveaway of the screeners in a contest to the Damages fan that writes the best argument for you to watch the show again?

I'm sure you legally can't give them away, but just an idea.

Andrew said...

After the disastrously bad season 2, the only great thing amazing about Damages is beautiful Rose Byrne. Totally agree Alan.

Anonymous said...

Jen, that's a little silly. I respect Alan a great deal but his opinions aren't infallible.

Steve said...

Disastrously bad? What?

They actually did a pretty good job in season 2, considering how other shows with a big season 1 mystery crashed -- Veronica Mars, Prison Break, hell, you can go back to Murder One, if you want.

I think, Damages is one of the best dramas currently airing and, for once, I can't agree with Alan at all. I don't see how Damages handles its mysteries differently from, say, Lost.

Plus, this is supposed to be the last season anyway, so they should have a pretty good plan where it's all going.

olucy said...

I think this is a terrific show (and also loved S2), so this stance is a head-scratcher for me, too, but I respect the opinion of anyone who feels otherwise.

fwiw, fellow commenter Mo Ryan will be covering Damages over at her Chicago Tribune blog. Her first post is up today. So anyone jonesing for some Damages dish can find it there.

AdamW said...

Steve, that may have been true for Lost season 2 or early-season-3, but not recently. I have the same problem with Damages as I do with 24: An apparent need to pull ever-more-ridiculous cliffhangers out of one orifice or another. I gave up on 24 long ago. I still watch Damages in hope that the material will step up to the performers' capabilities.

Mike F said...

I really enjoyed season 1...loved Ted Danson's performance in particular...and was sucked in by the big mystery arcs of the season.

But I just couldn't watch season 2...I gave up about 4-5 episodes in and while I am normally absorbed fully by shows I watch, found myself struggling to pay attention...so that was that

In a way, the way season 2 went reminded me of the Alias type of plot progression in which every supposedly serious plot twist just results in the show becoming more and more preposterous

Andrew said...

I'm rather ambivalent about Damages mostly due to the fact that the "mysteries" are so artificial. Take season 1, one of the central mysteries is just what precisely Ted Danson did. When it comes time to reveal it in the season finale, they don't do it by having any of the characters actually figure the damn thing out, they just insert a random flashback that explains everything.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'm sure you legally can't give them away, but just an idea.

I can't, alas. In the days of VHS, I could, but all the companies are now so paranoid about piracy that we're usually instructed to either keep or destroy any DVDs we get.

Doug S said...

I enjoy Damages as a guilty pleasure (I especially love Danson, who is much better there than on that show with Max Fischer) but Alan's logic has inspired me to finally give up the ghost on the awful and redundant 24. If only I could also avoid the promos...

Mike F said...

24's problem isn't so much that there are plot twists, its just that they are the same exact plot twists over and over again...its like Groundhog Day

cgeye said...

I can't stand Rose Byrne's character; I can't stand her makeup; I can't stand how she's all about the vengeful black-wearing fiancee, but is too stoopid to know she's sleeping with an assassin just one skotch better morally that the slimeball that killed her man.

And don't get me started on the lame acting of the showrunner-as-Fed. Really. Don't.

The death of Uncle Pete should have been far bigger than it was, and you know the writers don't trust their material or their momentum when they have to stab Patty just so she's weepy and sorry confessing about her attempted murder plot.

I'll watch tonight, but sooner or later they'll run out of People Patty Trusts enough to plot her death in sneaky flash-forward bits. God, I hate those, too....

Andy L said...

Not to be one of THOSE people, Alan, but I seem to remember you tweeting about the BBC show "Inbetweeners" a while back and I believe it is going to be debuting tonight. Any chance of seeing anything about it from you? I gobbled up the first two series in a day a while back. Very informative show. I learned that British is to vagina as Eskimo is to snow.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Not to encourage THOSE questions, Andy, but I watched a couple of episodes of it back before the summer press tour (when BBC America paneled it) and didn't love them. Some other critics like Poniewozik have been fairly kind, so maybe I'll take another look down the road. Just not today.

GregM said...

I'm having a hard time expressing why I enjoy "Damages" so much, but I think part of it was the fact that I DVRed the entire season 2, so could watch 2 eps at once, thus negating the "oh, christ, not *another* freakin' plot twist" effect. Also, I like the way they flesh out their villains--13 eps vs., say, a two-hour movie gives a fair amount of time for nuance.

Anonymous said...

You didn't miss anything in S2, Alan, and I can get behind your reasons. Life is too short.

Still, I enjoyed S1 (that actor with the unspellable name was awesome!) and I'm willing to give S3 a chance. SEASON 2 SPOILERS AHEAD - But if that writer guy who played the FBI agent appears, I'll probably give the rest of it a miss. I mean, you have a choice of killing off your own sorry acting ass or Mario van Peebles and you keep yourself? huh?

Andy L said...

Put up for debate: Greatest and Most Prolific TV guest star working today: Zeljko Ivanik (sp) or Garrett Dillahunt?

Discuss

King Killer Dave said...

Alan, you should do a weekly entry entitled "What's Alan Not Watching?"

Karen said...

I'm with Andrew on season 2. I loved loved loved the first season, and felt that Alan's lack of interest was indeed, as Anonymous notes, a sign of his lack of infallibility. But I could barely make it through the first episode of season 2--there was absolutely nothing in it that grabbed me for a second.

So while the guest cast for season 3 looks intriguing, I'm not sure I'll be paying it any mind.

dan said...

strange how bbc america are showing the inbetweeners seen as it wasnt on the bbc over here

but then i guess its a bit like our fx shows(ed) burn notice and the wire

inbetweeners is good if you like silly immature comedies

B said...

I really wanted to watch Damages when it started but I agree with your assessment of Season 2 completely Alan. It became less about logical plot development and more about just yanking the rug out from under the viewer every week. It prevented me from getting involved in anything because I was trying to figure out what wasn't going to be the way it appeared. The most ludicrous to me was the turn early in season 2 involving William Hurt's character. (I don't dare say what it is just in case). It was one of the more ridiculous plot twists I've ever seen and it completely turned me off the show when I was trying to give it a second chance.

i really believe the only reason this show has the cache it still does is because Glenn Close is in the main role.

Anonymous said...

Alan, why don't you write about Wizards of Waverly Place?

David said...

I don't watch "Damages" (I tried an episode and a half but ultimately couldn't bring myself to care), but in reading your piece about the show, I was struck by how many of those same frustrations and reservations could be leveled at "Lost". If there were ever a show in recent memory that was built on an ever-shifting foundation that doesn't play fair with its audience, I'd argue it's that one.

And I say this as a fan of it -- although I admit I now watch the show more out of commitment than interest.

David

P.S. - Keep up the great work. I've been reading your stuff regularly since the early days of NYPD Blue.

Jim said...

I like it but I can see why others wouldn't. The writers did seem to lose their way in Season 2, but I find Glenn Close a lot of fun to watch. And I'm hoping that after two seasons on a cable series, Rose Byrne has earned enough money to buy herself a couple of sandwiches, maybe a milkshake.

cgeye said...

"But if that writer guy who played the FBI agent appears, I'll probably give the rest of it a miss. I mean, you have a choice of killing off your own sorry acting ass or Mario van Peebles and you keep yourself? huh?"

Ah-henh. Van Peebles was the only male eye candy who wasn't a sociopath, and him they give a stereotypical black male death? If his dad weren't dead, he'd be spinning in his grave....

And the plot twist that makes the least sense? Uncle Pete's wife, dragging that oxygen canister behind her, becoming the frailest deus-ex-machina *evah*. She should work as one of the few characters who decides to come clean about her comfy life, but her actions make no sense.

So, OK, you're the wife of a lesser local Tony Soprano, and your man chooses to die rather than squeal. You've got the key to his secret cache, and you're jaded enough about the bricks of cash you can toss them aside. But somehow you can figure out the names on his secret photo files (all nice 8 x 10 glossies, in this encrypted digital age....) and decide that nice young anorexic gal needs to know about the plots against her and her fiance, in order to heal. Fine. All well and good.

But, Stefania, why give Patty, the enemy of Ellen, the big evil boss that squeezed your husband dry until he decided to take his own life rather than spend your last months with you, the files that Pete kept on *her*? I don't care whether they were family pictures or crime scene photos, giving Patty Hewes one more thing to be paranoid about is one sure way of shortening your life without filing a Do-Not-Resuscitate order. Hell, we know Patty put the hit on Pete -- why would she hesitate making Stefania's death look like her inevitable end?

That's when I knew that Damages would be DOA if it weren't for Glenn Close and her Batmobile of Bat-Villains. If it had to deal with its plotlines without its band of moustache-twirlers, it would soon resort to NIP/TUCK's unabashed sensationalism.

cgeye said...

If his dad *were* dead. Sorry, Mr. Van Peebles...

HautieTx said...

I really like Damages. Granted Glenn Close is amazing when she gets to be evil. And this show completely showcases her ability to sell it.

With the addition of Lily Tomlin and Martin Short for this seasons storyline, I had to tune in. And I am already loving it.

I think the biggest draw for me is that everyone is evil. The writers really do make the majority of the characters, ethically challenged.

Which always makes for good TV. And Martin Short looks to be just as evil as Patty this year.

Mike Sharp's Blog! said...

Still, I enjoyed S1 (that actor with the unspellable name was awesome!) and I'm willing to give S3 a chance.

Do you mean the guy who's Jenny Garth's real-life husband? He'll always be Mike Dexter to me, even though I wasn't all that crazy about "Can't Hardly Wait."

DeWitt said...

I understand the criticism of Damages and why Sepinwall gave up on the show. It promises far more than it delivers and be very frustrating. ( And we think "Lost" jumps around a lot in time!)

On the other hand...they've used a lot of my favorite actors, although not as artfully as I would have hoped. The good moments wiah Ted Danson, Zeliko Ivanek (who got more out of his character than almost anyone), William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Peter Reigert, now..Len Caribou, Lily Tomlin and especially Martin Short..all people I like and they don't get enough screen time on television.

And of course, Glenn Close. It's almost criminal they've not fleshed out the part for her a they should but she's still a treat to watch.
So...that's hooked me just enough to Tivo the shows and speed through the dull parts. IMO, Rose Byrne is beautiful but uninteresting.

The real talent beside Close is the scene-stealing Tom Noonan. He's always fascinating to watch and if they had any sense at all, they'll build up his time on screen. I'd love to see a show build around him.

No one may see this but thanks for the forum!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Sepinwall, why don't you try getting over your hate for Europe and try to watch and review Rainer Fassbinder's masterpiece Berlin Alexanderplatz?

-European Film Snob

Craig Ranapia said...

'Damages' is a weird little show -- the production values and cast are first-rate, but it never seems to quite become even the sum of its parts.

I originally only started watching because I'd watch web-cam footage of Glenn Close brushing her teeth. But like too many other shows, an excellent lead isn't enough.

dez said...

I, for one, would love it if Alan wrote about "Berlin Alexanderplatz," if only so I can say I actually know someone besides myself who's seen it :-)

(Not asking you to, Alan, btw--I know you're way too busy to add it to even the summer rotation!)