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Future of 'Damages' is unsettled

October 09, 2007|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- "Damages" fans waiting for illumination about the murder mystery at the heart of the FX drama are hoping to garner some more clues when the show's third-to-last episode airs (at 10 tonight).

But even though network executives promise there will be a satisfying conclusion to the Patty Hewes-Arthur Frobisher showdown by the end of the season, they can't yet say as much about the fate of the series.

While the intricately plotted legal thriller starring Glenn Close and Ted Danson has garnered a passionate following, it has not been as sizable as the cable network had hoped. By the end of each week, episodes have averaged a cumulative viewership of 4.9 million people, including 2.4 million 18- to 49-year-olds. Live viewing, on which the network bases most of its ad sales, is substantially lower.

"The ratings are pretty middling," said John Landgraf, president of FX Networks. "It's nothing to write home about."

Nevertheless, the network is still considering picking up the show for another season, a prospect about which Landgraf said he was "reasonably optimistic, not wildly optimistic."

"I couldn't be happier with it creatively," he said. "I think the show is a credit to our brand."

A decision could come as soon as this week or as long as several months from now, once network executives have a chance to study the final viewership data, including DVR viewing. One factor that could persuade FX to give the program a second shot: the hope that the drama will rack up some major awards, which in turn could trigger interest in a new season. On the other side of the ledger is the worry that the show's complicated plotting tests viewer commitment.

"The very thing that makes people so excited about it -- the heavily layered serialization -- makes it a challenge in the current environment," Landgraf said.

The FX president pledged that those who have followed the show's twists and turns will be sated by the Oct. 23 finale, which also hints at a possible second season story line.

Interestingly, the show's writers scrapped their original plan for how to wrap up the current season as the series progressed, even changing who will ultimately emerge as the killer (or is it killers?).

"You inevitably find that you have to make adjustments," Landgraf said. "This is what really good show runners do: They think through everything, then they leave their minds open to a better solution."

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