Another terrific series that did much to designate the last decade as a new golden age for dramatic television this week will come to an end. I'm speaking of Damages, the consistently chilling legal thriller starring Glenn Close as ruthless attorney Patty Hewes that began life in 2007 on FX, where it ran for three seasons before moving over to DirecTV for its final two.
I'll always think of Damages in the same company as the many other broadcast and basic cable series that made the first 10 years of this new millennium a remarkable time for advertiser-supported dramatic television. The other standouts during that time included NBC's The West Wing (which actually began in September 1999), ABC's Lost, CBS' The Good Wife, Fox's 24 and House, Friday Night Lights (which also migrated from its original home, on NBC, to DirecTV, where it ran for three seasons), FX's The Shield and Sons of Anarchy, AMC's Mad Men and Breaking Bad, TNT's The Closer and Syfy's Battlestar Galactica. Several have continued into the current decade, but many of them are gone, and others have end dates in sight. Regardless, they all blossomed during a time that ought to be remembered as one of the most extraordinary in television history. A few new gems (FX's Justified and AMC's The Walking Dead among them) have come along since then, yet I can't help but wonder: Will the decade we're in ultimately produce as much extraordinary drama as the one just passed, a ten-year period whose television output becomes even more humbling when one factors in such pay-cable accomplishments as Showtime's Dexter and HBO's The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and The Wire?
Damages did much to support my hindsight appreciation of TV drama in recent years. Powered by a narrative dynamic that often played with chronological exposition, it was an uncommonly complex and challenging show. There is no underestimating its impact, alone or in tandem with other sophisticated scripted fare. In fact, I cannot recall another development that did more to establish the aughts as a new golden age of television drama than the decision by an actress of Glenn Close's stature to star in a weekly dramatic series.
Close's move to series television in 2007 signaled more than a pop-cultural shift in smart entertainment away from the multiplex and onto smaller screens. It was also a key factor in the mid-decade popularity of mature women in leading series roles.
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