Last Night's TV: Brief encounter becomes a fatal attraction

Damages, BBC1; Curb Your Enthusiasm, More4; Coronation Street ITV1

It is getting on for 20 years since David Lynch's Twin Peaks left television audiences baffled and befuddled, as we sought to get our heads round the labyrinthine mystery not just of who killed high-school prom queen Laura Palmer, but what on earth was going on at any one time. Damages is shaping up as a similar exercise in bafflement and befuddlement. At any rate, when your wife's waking comment at 6.38am is not "can you make Jacob's packed lunch while I have a shower?" or "will you be in at lunchtime because there's a chap coming to repair the washing machine?" but "why do you think Gregory would have lied to Ellen about the man getting into Frobisher's limo?" you know that the curse of the American serial has struck again.

Damages is schlock, of course, but it is highly superior schlock. Ellen (Rose Byrne) is a brilliant but not too worldly young lawyer who has fallen under the spell of legal superstar Patty Hewes, played by Glenn Close as a combination of Hillary Clinton and Cruella de Vil, with occasional undertones of the nutcase she played in Fatal Attraction.

My wife and I met Glenn Close once, backstage at the National Theatre, where she was starring in A Streetcar Named Desire. A friend of ours was in the cast and introduced us. She is tiny and birdlike, and gave the impression from under a baseball cap pulled low even in the cast canteen that not a corpuscle of her being wanted to make our acquaintance even fleetingly, which may have had something to do with the gruelling evening she'd just spent as Blanche DuBois. Or maybe it was more to do with the permafrost that protects some Hollywood stars, especially those from upper-class New England dynasties. Close went to Choate, a prep school in Connecticut, which also boasts as alumni John F Kennedy, Adlai Stevenson and the billionaire philanthropist Paul Mellon, not to mention, albeit fictionally, Dr Charles Emerson Winchester, the inveterate snob in M*A*S*H. She has probably known people like Patty Hewes all her life.

"Trust no one," Patty told Ellen last night, advice that applies to herself most of all. We know, because Damages fiendishly began at the end rather than the beginning, that Ellen winds up covered in blood being accused of the murder of her nice fiance. The murder will doubtless turn out to be Patty's doing, for she is more Prince Machiavelli than Perry Mason; indeed, in our house we are rooting for Arthur Frobisher, the tycoon and alleged $1.4bn fraudster, whom she is determined to destroy by fair means or foul. That is another dimension of the curse of the American serial; you end up empathising with slimeballs like Tony Soprano and Arthur Frobisher. Plus, Frobisher is played by Ted Danson, who even with snow-white hair still looks too much like Sam Malone from Cheers to hate properly.

Last night, indeed, was Ted Danson night; he also popped up on Curb Your Enthusiasm, playing himself. I have friends who would rather watch Curb Your Enthusiasm than spend half an hour doing almost anything else in life. Offer them the chance to share a bath with Michelle Pfeiffer, or watch the England football team win a penalty shootout in the World Cup final against Germany, and they would say nope, just give me another dose of Larry David.

For me, another Larry will always have the edge. The Larry Sanders Show of blessed memory was an infinitely superior exercise in mock-reality, while David's undoubted genius was more eloquently displayed in Seinfeld, which benefited rather than suffered from the constraints of network television.

In one of the greatest episodes of Seinfeld, entitled "The Contest" and much loved by all aficionados, the four main characters struck a bet to see who could go the longest without masturbating. At least part of its brilliance as comedy lay in the use of euphemisms. NBC gave Seinfeld plenty of latitude by American primetime standards, but certain taboos remained. David now produces his wares for HBO, however, and taboos do not apply. So when masturbation is the central tool, so to speak, in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, as it was last night, there is no need for subtlety. Funny as it was, "The Contest" was funnier.

In Weatherfield, meanwhile, which spiritually, if not geographically, is about as far as you can get from Larry David's Los Angeles, Vera Duckworth (Liz Dawn) was cremated. Her no-good son Terry (Nigel Pivaro) turned up to pay his respects with one hand, and check his legacy with the other. "I'm in mobile phones... at the cutting edge, y'know," he told the ever-diminishing band who remember him. He lives right on the cutting edge in Wolverhampton.

After this Coronation Street funeral, the mourners repaired to the Rovers for sandwiches. "Vera Duckworth had a gob on her worse than mine," said Janice Battersby (Vicky Entwistle). Which was true, but Jack (Bill Tarmey) will miss it. We all will.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
    RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

    RuPaul interview

    The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
    Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

    Secrets of comedy couples

    What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
    Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

    Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

    While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
    The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

    The best swimwear for men

    From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
    Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

    Mark Hix goes summer foraging

     A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
    Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

    With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

    Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
    Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

    Aaron Ramsey interview

    Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
    Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

    Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

    As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
    The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

    Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

    Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms