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DirecTV saves "Damages" from cancellation

Legal drama "Damages" got a last-minute stay of execution when DirecTV stepped in and offered to keep the show going for two more seasons, after it was cast aside in favor of younger fare by FX network.

Glenn Close will be back to gnaw on some more scenery in the upcoming episodes; Rose Byrne will also be back as will other "principal cast members" DirecTV said without getting specific.

Unlike DirecTV's deal for the high school football drama "Friday Night Lights" -- in which DirecTV's 101 channel runs each season first, after which the episodes are re-run on NBC -- upcoming episodes of "Damages" will not be telecast on FX, which had been the show's home for its three seasons to date.

DirecTV said in a statement it was excited to "breathe new life" into the drama, whose third season finale came and went in April, followed by deafening silence from FX as to its future, leading industry wags to speculate it had none.

In its third season, the initial telecasts of "Damages" had only averaged 927,000 viewers -- pretty puny compared to the 2.5 million who caught FX's Kentucky Deputy U.S. Marshall shoots-to-kill drama, "Justified," or the 3.7 million lured to the most recent season of the network's bad-biker-boys drama, "Sons of Anarchy."

"Damages's" 927,000 viewers may not play well in the executive suites of FX, but it's dandy at DirecTV, which is trying to build its 101 channel into a destination for tony dramas. "Damages" star Close, who has already logged two consecutive Emmy wins for her unparalleled scenery-chewing skills on this show as ethics-challenged attorney Patty Hewes, is up for another statuette this year. This year, the show's Emmy nominees also include acting noms for Byrne Ċ½eljko Ivanek, Ted Danson and Lily Tomlin.

Meanwhile, "Justified" star Timothy Olyphant? Snubbed on Emmy noms day, to FX's chagrin. Likewise all the sons of "Anarchy."

"Damages," in fact, absolutely oozes trophy-show firsts: It, and AMC's "Mad Men," were the first basic cable series to be nominated for the Emmy for best drama series. Close was the first first actress from a basic cable series to win the Emmy for best drama actress. Ivanek was the first actor from a basic cable series to win the Emmy for best supporting actor in a drama and "Damages" was the first basic cable show to take home the Emmy for best drama series casting. In its first season, "Damages" also earned the most Golden Globes nominations of any series in television.

You know what really did in "Damages" on FX? Only 277,000 of its 927,000 devoted viewers were 18 -to- 49 year olds who are Thisbe to Madison Avenue's Pyramus.

Meanwhile, a whopping 2.6 million of "Anarchy's 3.7 million fans are in that magic age bracket, as are 1.3 million of "Justified's" 2.5 million followers. And, for all its artsy-network aspirations, FX is still an ad-supported, basic cable network and what advertisers say - goes.

Monday's announcement was the first time FX officially acknowledged it was not bringing back "Damages" for a fourth season.

"Damages" producer Sony was anxious to add more episodes to the prestigious series' library because it is a big draw in the overseas market, owing largely to its all-star cast which, over the years, has also included Danson, Tate Donovan, the aforementioned Olyphant, William Hurt, Martin Short, Mario Van Peebles, Marcia Gay Harden and Tomlin.

All that prestige and all those Emmys notwithstanding, with numbers like those "Damages" coughed up in its most recent season, Sony was in no position to play hardball with a prospective new buyer. On the other hand, DirecTV reportedly is not getting the show at a fire-sale rate.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  July 19, 2010; 8:36 PM ET
Categories:  TV News  
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I was not ready to let Damages go.

Posted by: Veritasamus | July 20, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

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