What's a guilty pleasure? For me, Damages

What is a "guilty pleasure"? It's usually something kind of cheesy that you pretend is an occasional indulgence rather than the personal staple it really is. I think it's really something you like for one particular feature or other, while realizing that the creators didn't really do their jobs properly. But you like that thing so much that you're willing to overlook the other issues.

To me, the TV show Damages is like that. I tend to watch TV shows as long units, on DVD. Last week I finally caught up with the first season of Damages (partly because of a casual mention of the show by Catherynne M. Valente).  This is the one with Glenn Close as a barracuda litigator and Ted Danson as the loopy billionaire she's suing.

I had a great time with it. The acting is good, as is a lot of the dialogue the actors get to say. And, wonderfully, when you watch interviews with the actors, almost none of them have the same accent they have in the show. Several are not even Americans. It's like those Brits on The Wire that freak you out when you hear them out of their roles.

What makes it a guilty pleasure is the insane implausibility of the various crimes that are committed by one or the other side in a complex class-action suit based on Enron-like financial chicanery. Instead of the tedious documents such things actually depend on, everything starts to turn on people who witnessed various things that are, really, almost irrelevant. And they start getting killed in fairly obvious ways.

It's fun, but as George Clooney's character, Michael Clayton, told Tilda Swinton's Karen Crowder in Michael Clayton (a much more focused version of poorly conceived crimes in pursuit of a class action suit): "I'm not the guy you kill.  I'm the guy you buy." Almost everyone is. (BTW, the thing I most admired about Michael Clayton was the crooked teeth and other physical imperfections in the big stars, a startlingly effective way to make things seem realistic)

I would love to see Close's Patty Hewes played straight, with no criminal agenda or personal corruption. Because when she is just the incredibly focused boss, who only wants your work, and a lot of it, not your personal self, thank you very much, the character is incredible. There's a brief, almost throw-away scene, where a crucial ex-employee has realized he can't make it on his own and comes back with a list of demands and Patty reviews them: ("yes...sure...yes....") and then comes to the one she can't accept. Her brisk command of what matters and what doesn't really gave me a thrill--I've worked with people like this, and they are really something other than us ordinary mortals.

It's people like Patty that make businesses succeed. That, in point of fact, make this country great. When they stop pushing us timeserving shlubs around and give it up is when we all get thrown on the ash heap of history (a phrase from Leon Trotsky, himself an interesting possible model for the boss from hell). The world of non-corrupt but totally competitive business is almost absent from the works of every genre.

But, sure. When you start with a half-dressed woman running down the street covered with blood, you've got the hook you need. Who really cares that the reason she's covered in blood actually makes little sense?

Well, I do, actually. But it was still much more fun than most seasons of TV, and had a lot of fun revelations, cliff hangers, and reversals that kept me watching later in the night than I usually stay up.