The Netflix Files: February 1, 2010

Kind of like Blockbuster Online, but better.Netflix has become something of a mainstay among Brown students. With over 20 million subscribers, it has all but revolutionized the way movie rentals operate. And now, the company is making a push toward unlimited access to streaming video via the Watch Instantly feature. Watch Instantly has proved so successful that, as of late, Netflix has begun to prioritize it above the mail-order service.

Not that we’re complaining. Netflix is constantly building its Watch Instantly media library, striking high-profile deals with distributors like Starz and Disney. The library currently boasts all six seasons of LOST; a breadth of 2010 movies, including mega-hit Alice in Wonderland; and Hilary Duff’s exercise in compelling drama, Beauty and the Briefcase (thanks ABC Family!).

As a result, we at BlogDailyHerald decided to develop a series that explores Watch Instantly’s best. We may have stolen this idea. Whatever. Blockbuster Online totally did the same thing to compete with Netflix, and look how well they turned out!

So, without further ado…  
Damages Watch Instantly has prided itself on amassing full seasons of serialized dramas like LOST, 24 and Battlestar Galactica, in an attempt to appeal to binge watchers who like continuing stories. But one that has gone largely unappreciated, in our opinion, is FX’s Damages.

Damages is not your average legal drama. It does have your cute, wide-eyed young lawyer…but in the pilot’s opening scene, she’s covered in blood. Flash back to six months earlier, and from there the show allows viewers to participate in a season-long mystery of crime and intrigue.

The first season is exceptionally strong. Lead attorney Patty Hewes, played by Glenn Close (aka Cruella DeVil in the 101 Dalmatians movies), upgrades from unenthusiastically torturing puppies to taking down corporate empires. And along the way, she may or may not indulge in thievery, blackmail and the occasional murder. She’s like a mix of Machiavelli and Ayn Rand.

The supporting cast also shines. Ted Danson, of Cheers, absolutely steals the show as the defendant, capitalist billionaire Arthur Frobisher. Character actor Zeljko Ivanek won an Emmy for portraying Frobisher’s shady lawyer Ray Fiske. And Tate Donovan, who played the lovably pathetic Jimmy Cooper on The O.C., pretty much takes on the exact same role as Patty’s partner Tom Shayes.

The best thing about Damages is the moral ambiguity of these characters. Sure, Frobisher ripped off his employees and sanctions unspeakable crimes, but he is also an oddly sympathetic character. Meanwhile, protagonist Patty Hewes is basically an awful human being (in the first episode, for instance, she does what Cruella DeVil never could and, spoiler alert, kills a canine).

So check it out if you have a chance. It’s both gripping and addicting. The first two seasons are on Watch Instantly in their entirety. The third, which is based on the Madoff scandal, has yet to be released.

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