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Damages Moves to DirecTV, New Official Savior of Television

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I believe we can start thinking of satellite provider DirecTV as the Lourdes of television, the last hope for praised but low-rated TV shows and their fans. A couple years ago, it rescued Friday Night Lights by working out a cost-sharing deal with NBC in exchange for first-run rights. Now it’s adopting the award-winning legal thriller Damages from FX, guaranteeing it a fourth and fifth season—and this time, the show will belong to DirecTV alone.

The show, which was too expensive for FX for the numbers it brought in, is worth it to DirecTV as a prestige project. Glenn Close and Rose Byrne are returning, but there may be a need for budget cuts—as there were in FNL—and it will be interesting to see how that will affect a show that relied on big-name guests. But where there’s life, there’s hope.

So could this be a sign for Save Our Show campaigns of the future? Maybe the fans of the next big endangered show—Chuck fans, take note!—should start developing secondary plans to start lobbying not the networks, but DirecTV, to use its largesse for the benefit of their personal show/cause.

It could be a boon for harassed programming executives as well:

Dear [Name of Fan]: We at [Network] are big fans of [Title of Cancelled Show]. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts at giving it a compatible timeslot and promotion, it was not drawing a large enough audience to be financially sustainable here. May I suggest that, rather than directing them here, you instead mail your crates of [Novelty Food Item Related to Cancelled Show] to DirecTV? It just might get their attention!

In any event, fans of Damages will have to wait a while, as it doesn’t appear the series will air new episodes until late 2011 at earliest. (And fans without DirecTV will have to wait longer for the DVDs—no second run on FX in this arrangement.) But Patty Hewes will live to litigate—and stare enigmatically off the end of a dock wearing sunglasses—another day.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to demand that DirecTV bring Arrested Development, Firefly and Freaks and Geeks back. From the DirecTV announcement:

CULVER CITY AND EL SEGUNDO, CALIF., July 19, 2010 – DIRECTV and Sony Pictures Television will team up to bring the award-winning DAMAGES, starring Glenn Close and Rose Byrne, back with brand new episodes to be produced early next year and debuting exclusively on DIRECTV. Emmy winner Glenn Close, Emmy nominee Rose Byrne and other principal cast members will return for the new episodes.

Unlike DIRECTV’s current deal for Friday Night Lights, whereby the show airs first on DIRECTV and then on NBC, the new episodes of DAMAGES will air only on DIRECTV. Additionally, DIRECTV will have the rights to air previously produced seasons 1 through 3.

“We’re excited to partner with Sony Pictures Television as we breathe new life into this outstanding drama,” said Patty Ishimoto, general manager of The 101 Network and vice president of entertainment for DIRECTV. “It’s a win for our customers because only they will be able to see these new episodes and another great step forward for DIRECTV as we continue to build our growing portfolio of exclusive, award winning programming.”

“DAMAGES is simply one of the best shows on television, and we’re grateful to DIRECTV for the opportunity to produce more episodes of this groundbreaking show,” said Jamie Erlicht, president, programming and production, Sony Pictures Television.

“We’re thrilled to have a new home for the show and our team of award-winning writers, producers and actors will not only maintain that standard of excellence, but deliver our best seasons yet,” added Zack Van Amburg, president, programming and production, Sony Pictures Television.

“FX was very proud to have developed one of the best scripted series on television, but, in order to have a future, the show needed DIRECTV and we are thrilled they stepped in,” said John Landgraf, President & General Manager, FX Networks, who also heads FX Productions. “Sony Pictures Television is a great production partner and we at FX Productions are excited for these next two seasons.”