Television series, even the best, should come with an expiration date. Before creators and casts embarrass themselves with a “Jump the shark” season, they ought to quit while ahead. Seldom happens. Cases in point: “Damages” written by Todd and Glenn Kessler and Dan Zelman. First season was terrific. Great acting by veteran Glenn Close and newcomer Rose Byrne. Good supporting cast, gripping story with shady billionaire Ted Danson. Mysterious killings, flashbacks galore and a double-cross in every other scene. Second season, riveting—contemporary storyline about a whistleblower and a corrupt chemical company CEO with a long reach. Third season—a tour de force ala Bernie Madoff and his conflicted family. More killings, more flashbacks. Fourth season—off the rails with an limp story about a damaged vet with an Afghan past and a powerful military contractor (think Blackwater) played by the always dependable John Goodman. But the production values flat-lined and the story “Jumped the shark” in this season. Out of gas, “Damages” struggled on, another series gone on too long. Same thing with FX’s quirky, outrageous “Justified” after way too many seasons: overcooked scripts and cheap production values (hey, viewers can spot California backgrounds that look nothing like Kentucky). Maybe the suits grab the wheels for these dramas at some point and in doing so, ruin the originality. The Kesslers and Zelman write great plots (witness the first two seasons of Netflix’s Shakespearean “Bloodline” set in Florida’s keys). But even that twisted story now faces a third season. Again, outstanding acting all around so far, but I’m holding my breath, hoping the scripts don’t end up running on fumes halfway to Key West.
President Underwood, are you listening?