Is DirecTV becoming an outlet for the "brilliant but nearly canceled"? When NBC was about to pull the plug on "Friday Night Lights," the satellite operator helped save it with a slot on its "101 Network." Now it has given FX's "Damages" a new go.
In a deal with producer Sony Pictures Television, the critically acclaimed series moves to 101 for its final two seasons. Starting next year, 20 episodes will air on the channel, as FX declined to continue with its faltering ratings.
DirecTV has a licensing deal with SPT, but will also have an opportunity to offer creative input.
NBC Universal's defunct Trio network was known largely for a "brilliant but canceled" programming block, which offered episodes of shows that received praise but not many viewers before being scuttled.
After NBCU dropped the channel in 2006, a "brilliant but canceled" iteration continued online and has since been incorporated into Bravo's TelevisionWithoutPity.com, where a blog earlier this month lamented a "Damages" demise.
"It's really a shame -- there are few legal shows as thrilling and unique ... but for some reason, it never found an audience," the site wrote. "Maybe the ads made it look boring -- maybe people thought it would be too highbrow and complicated for them to enjoy -- maybe people are just freaked out by Glenn Close."
Close won an Emmy for her role as an attorney on the show. DirecTV also has the rights to the first three seasons as part of its SPT arrangement.
When "Friday Night Lights" seemed moribund, NBC worked out a deal where it would split production costs with DirecTV. Seasons with 13 episodes would debut on the 101, then air on NBC later. A new season follows that path again this fall.
DirecTV is keeping "Damages" for itself, unless it inks some other arrangement. Shows on the 101 are mostly commercial-free; like HBO, the value isn't judged by ratings alone.
Other programming on the 101 includes reruns of HBO's "The Wire" and "Deadwood," an original game show with rocker Meat Loaf and simulcasts of Dan Patrick's radio show.
FX Productions has a role in producing "Damages" along with SPT.