A Madoff-inspired opener for 'Damages'

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"Damages" on FX Networks. Glenn Close is pictured. Photo Credit: FX, 2009

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Last season, Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) finally squeezed the truth out of Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) - with the squeeze of a trigger, you might say. Patty admitted she ordered a hit on Ellen because of what she knew about the Frobisher case. Patty is later knifed by the crooked energy futures trader in the elevator. Ellen leaves the firm after the corrupt FBI surveillance of Patty, which she had been cooperating with, implodes.

What it's about: With distinctive shades of Bernie Madoff, the district attorney wants billionaire Louis Tobin (Len Cariou), accused of defrauding thousands, thrown in jail, while Patty has been retained by his victims to recoup their losses. But Tobin insists he's been left penniless.

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Naturally, Patty doesn't believe him, so she sets to work on the son, Joe (Campbell Scott), an apparently well-meaning guy who says he had no idea what dear old dad was up to. Joe is strong-armed by dad's attorney, Leonard Winstone (Martin Short), to stay away from Hewes. Also making things tough is Tobin's strong-willed wife, Marilyn (Lily Tomlin). Meanwhile, Ellen is working for the district attorney's narcotics unit, and wants nothing to do with Patty. Good luck with that.

My say: "Damages" fans know all too well that the show's three ringleaders - writers Glenn and Todd Kessler, and Daniel Zelman - aren't only master story tellers but master tricksters. Again from their bag of tricks comes time manipulation. The third season toggles between present tense and future - we go six months into the future - but viewers get only a partial view of each time frame. That's one of the pleasures of the "Damages" guessing game. What's been left out? And how are we being manipulated?

Bottom line: Gorgeously acted, written, paced, structured and conceived, "Damages" remains one of the best shows on TV - and maybe the most enjoyably addictive.

Grade: A+

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