Fifth-episode verdict: Damages

The Carusometer for Damages2-Partial-Caruso

As you may recall (although in all likelihood, you won’t), I gave Damages a tentative thumbs up for its first episode. Not exactly my cup of tea, but for those who like the John Grisham milieu, not half bad and certainly not as insulting as the usual tripe.

However, five episodes in, my reservations are pretty much the same and have more or less been confirmed. With a really bad theme tune that endlessly repeats “When I am through with you” to ram home the subtle subtext, rather than being some Grisham-esque “innocent learns about life in the big league” tale, Damages has refined itself to be a game of one-upmanship between sociopaths.

At every step of the way, whether it’s Glenn Close, Ted Danson or one of the incidental characters, everyone is trying to show just how ruthless and manipulative they are. They might as well be saying things like “pawn takes rook and then mate in seven moves” with a knowing glance at every conceivable point. Nothing rings true and events seem to take place simply to demonstrate how clever everyone is. It’s as though the producers want us to know exactly how daring they are.

“Oh no, this would never get on mainstream TV,” they say. “We are just so cutting edge. Quick, let’s have Ted Danson send out assassins to kill a witness while snorting coke with a hooker! No, let’s have Glenn Close have her own son kidnapped!” And so on.

Remotely plausible? No. But as a way to pile on tension, it works. I’m not gripped, but if you love constant twists that you’d never predict (because they’d never happen in real life), Damages is a decent piece of work. The cast are good, all the quality checkboxes have been ticked. When ridiculous plot twists aren’t been piled on top of previously mildly implausible plot twists, the characters are able to show depth and a degree of verisimilitude and intelligence. The plot’s a little tricky to follow with all the game-playing and the constant leaping around between time periods, but it gels together about as well as other “tense legal thrillers”.

It just makes no sense whatsoever. If that’s not an obstacle, you’ll probably enjoy it.

So The Medium is Not Enough declares Damages a two or “Partial Caruso” on The Carusometer quality scale. A Partial Caruso corresponds to “a show with two walk-on cameos by David Caruso as a top-flight lawyer. After shouting ‘Objection!’ after every other actor’s line, he will insist on smiling a secret smile to himself, since it’s the only way he can suggest mental superiority without forcing others to take an IQ test – then cheating on his own results. The producers will write him out after episode two when his character bleeds to death after a freak paper cut.”


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.