Saturday, April 3, 2010

DirecTV to save 'Damages?'

Rumors abound that Sony, producers of Damages, is looking to DirecTV for help in paying for a fourth season.

Not to be a contrarian here, but is this really necessary?
Sure, Damages is a critically acclaimed, narratively complex drama that gives FX and Sony a lot of cultural cache. Glenn Close is fantastic in every single episode, and Tate Donovan has been right there with her for most of the series run. Throw in a slew of high-profile guest stars and a you-must-pay-attention narrative and it seems like a formula for a successful cable series.

But alas, it is not. Almost nobody watches Damages. Most new episodes garner .2 in the all-important 18-49 demographic. A .2! That's anemic. .2 in the 18-49 + < 1 million viewers = not a hit. Obviously.

Fans of the series will clamor about DirecTV's deal with Friday Night Lights that saw them cover a good amount of the production costs for the rights to air the series first and also gain some brand identity as a place for original programming. But even FNL's porous numbers weren't as bad as those Damages obtains. And I'd also imagine that the production costs for FNL are cheaper than those for Damages, despite the on-location shoots. Big name stars aren't cheap.

So what the hell is really in it for DirecTV?

Next to nothing. The best thing I can think of is that airing Damages first will help DirecTV further its brand identity for their channel 101, in hopes of attracting some smart people for original, DTV-only content in the future.

That's it.

Think about it: Despite season three being somewhat a return to form -- I've only seen the first four episodes, full disclosure -- it still isn't as good as those first batch of episodes. It's not going to win the Emmy or Golden Globe for Best Drama Series. Glenn Close might win another one for her performance, but it's not as if she'll automatically thank DTV.

Plus, people aren't going to follow Damages liked they did FNL. I already noted the ratings differences, but in general, the fanbase of the latter is much more active than the high culture former.

To review: If DTV does go along with this deal, they will pay a lot of money for a series that literally no one watches. Moreover, they'll be paying more for that smaller return than they did for the FNL deal.

It seems like any time a series is in jeopardy these days, people automatically turn to DirecTV for the save. Thankfully, they've been smart so far by not jumping on other opportunities. Damages is an opportunity they should pass on. If FX cancels it, let it go.

Why not think saving more popular, but in trouble series like Chuck or Southland?

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