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Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Channel Nine's Damages, is "the series of the year", the Web site says. It opens with Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne, an Australian actor) exiting a New York apartment block dressed only in a blood-spattered khaki raincoat.

These segments are rendered in a desaturated and dodged pallette that creates an unreal ambience. Other segments of the story, which hinges on a court case for damages against "allegedly corrupt" billionaire Frobisher (Ted Danson) and the machinations perpetrated by lawyer Patty Hewes (Glenn Close), are rendered in relatively rich colour. That doesn't come close to the super-saturated shooting of CSI: Miami, however.

The marquee cast necessitates an up-market decor. Hewes' offices, apartment and country house are suitably stark, minimalist, relatively monochrome. Frobisher's house, by contrast, in a leafy suburb, is typical for this kind of drama: high-roofed, with a pool, surrounded by lush verdure. What any guy with too much money would want to live in. Days of Our Lives kitsch.

Parson's doctor boyfriend's sister Katie Connor (Anastasia Griffith) is deeply involved, to her detriment, in the class action but we don't know the details. Hewes plays a tight line, feeding Parsons some information but holding more back. It's not clear if Hewes hired Parsons for the access her relationship gives her (Hewes) to Katie. It's also not clear why Hewes fires her "senior legal associate" Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan) only to rehire him, and paying with envelopes of cash, to gather information about Parsons.

Frobisher and Katie have history. Katie catered for him in Florida in 2002, then met a 'nice' guy and slept with him, got pregnant, terminated it, and returned to New York with a promise from Frobisher to fund a new restaurant she would run.

The first episode was last Sunday. The next is, again, on Sunday. So we get two instalments (there are 13 altogether) weekly.

David Connor (Noah Bean) is killed. We know that from the beginning. And there's more mayhem: Frobisher takes out a contract on Katie because she won't sign a confidentiality agreement. Eventually, she confronts the assassin in the street and then signs the agreement.

The attorney Ray Fiske (Ċ½eljko Ivanek) is good value as is the guy Frobisher, reluctantly and only after energetically screwing a woman in the back seat of his SUV and taking something up his nose, asks to kill Katie. This guy asks another guy, drab in a beige sports jacket, to off the young Katie, whose blonde good looks are in contrast to Byrne's moony brunette.

As outlined it's clear that the attraction of the drama is in casting decisions, rather than in terms of originality. In fact, the frames showing New York architecture that are used for the opening credits, are superior aesthetically to either the shooting of the drama or its rather dull plot.

It needs more speed and energy. Just relying on Close to inject spice by being nasty doesn't take the edge off the dullness. I doubt I'll make it through the remaining 11 episodes.

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