It’s the Writing, Stupid

Two new TV shows are making waves because they star women in strong lead roles. “Damages” with Glenn Close is on FX on Tuesday nights, and “Saving Grace” with Holly Hunter airs on Monday nights. Both those actresses are at the top of my list of acting greats, not just because they’re enormously talented but because they both have the courage to take career risks. What other dramatic actress besides Glenn Close would take a chance on a role like Cruella DeVille? What other dramatic actress besides Holly Hunter would do “The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom”?

So I’m delighted to see them starring in their own television series, and I would like to see both succeed. But if I had to predict which was going to make it, it would have to be “Damages.” Not because the actors on that show are better than the folks in “Saving Grace,” but because “Damages” has a plot. Instead of relying on acting talent and quirky characters, “Damages” has a narrative thread that holds the whole thing together. In other words, it has writers who are focused on telling a story. The creators of “Saving Grace” seem to think all they have to do is show Holly Hunter being cute and sassy and have a man sprout wings every now and then. After a few times, that wing-sprouting thing gets old, especially if there’s no particular reason for it.

Actors are wonderful, magical people, but they need writers to give them lines. Writers are the unsung and invisible spines of every great film or TV series. The producers of “Saving Grace” haven’t asked my opinion, but if they did, I’d suggest they bring in some new writers. Or at least some script doctors. Fast.

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