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Damages: The Complete First Season - television series DVD / mystery and suspense DVD / drama DVD review
DAMAGES: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 5 stars
Actors: Glenn Close, Rose Byrne, Zeljko Ivanek, Noah Bean, Tate Donovan, Ted Danson
Creators: Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler, Daniel Zelman Studio: Sony Pictures
DVD release: 29 January 2008 Runtime: 581 minutes
(3 discs)
Format: AC-3, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Features: Aspect ratio 1.78:1, Audio tracks (English - Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround), Subtitles (French), 13 episodes, Cast and crew commentaries, Willful Acts: The Making of Damages, Trust No One: Insight From the Creators, Understanding Class Action interactive guide, Deleted scenes

Glenn Close and Rose Byrne star in FX's DAMAGES: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASONWith the legions of disappointing television these days, it is hard to get our hopes up too high when a new lawyerly ensemble series appears. So, it is with a grain of salt that Damages is received. To this closet fan of Tate Donovan, however, it seemed worth a look. Headed up by Glenn Close in the role of the morally ambiguous heroine, Damages offers surprising depth with a satisfying though entirely convoluted storyline.

Ellen Parsons (portrayed by Australian Rose Byrne with a flawless American accent) is a young, somewhat idealistic woman who has just begun her career. In casting her net to get her first job, one of the bites is from a powerful, terrifyingly successful litigator named Patty Hewes (Glenn Close). Patty becomes Ellen's mentor, alternating manipulating, pushing and praising Ellen. Tate Donovan plays Tom, Patty Hewes's right-hand-man, her second, her faithful puppy. Ted Danson plays the "villain" of the tale in the role of Arthur Frobisher, an egocentric, beyond-wealthy businessman who is accused of insider trading on top of embezzling. When Ellen comes into Hewes and Associates as the newest talent, the firm is trying the case against Frobisher. To complicate matters - and intrigue viewers - we know that Ellen's sweet doctor fiancÚ will be murdered and she will be arrested for it.

The story is told through a backwards timeline, bouncing seamlessly from future events to the present, illustrating an unfolding story for the na´ve Ellen Parsons. Seeing her fresh-faced enthusiasm butted right up against the much darker, harder version of herself six months down the road all within the first episode grabs curiosity by the scruff and won't let go until the tale is told to completion. A solid supporting cast includes Anastasia Griffin, Noah Bean and Zeljko Ivanek as Patty's opposing counsel. Ivanek brings an odd gritty but intensely vulnerable face to the show. He makes a perfect balance to Patty's bloodthirsty, selfish way of practicing law.

Damages is intelligently written, but what is better than that is that the show's creators do not assume that their viewers are idiots. Very little is spelled out. There are a lot of hints, little tidbits that point to what may be, what might become as the season progresses. But even at the end, there are things that are left to the viewer to sort and decide, morally and concretely. There is joy in that, in a world of constant pandering to the lowest common denominator. As long as we can handle the constant idea that Patty is half-dozen steps ahead of everyone, it is richly enjoyable. The other aspect of the show that counts in its favor is that there are very few one-dimensional characters. Although there are only thirteen episodes, the talented creators of Damages pumped life into each of them, particularly Patty Hewes.

There are specials galore on the final disc, including the expected talent interviews and creation thoughts. Offerings also include deleted scenes and a plethora of previews for other shows and movies. Sadly, there is no preview to shed light on what can be expected of the second season of Damages, outside of the heavy foreshadowing in the final episode; nor do they break with the overall somber feel by sharing a blooper reel. (While this is a wee bit disappointing, it really would be out of place.)

With so many legal thrillers on the airways to choose from, Damages is the obvious choice - stronger even than the first season of Murder One. Damages lives in the deep gray shadows, and that is something that will always have appeal.
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reviewed by Carolynn Evans
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