With its third season beginning production next month, FX's "Damages" faces a serious concern: How do you top a year in which you expand your cast to include a pair of Oscar winners? 

"I think one of the things that’s fun about 'Damages' is you get a chance to refresh your cast with really interesting guest casting every year. And last year, we had already announced Tim Olyphant, and I was able to announce Marcia Gay Harden at the TCA last year," FX President John Landgraf told critics at Friday (Aug. 7) morning's Television Critics Association press tour conference. "There will be some announcements, I think, within the next week or two that are really unexpected and really interesting. I don’t think anybody in this room would guess who they are thinking of or going to."

Britney Spears as a high-priced environmental lawyer?

Ernest Borgnine as a vicious CEO?

Mike Tyson as a passionate gay marriage advocate?

[Sorry. That's just me guessing at guest stars I'd never guess.]

As Landgraf noted, "Damages" added Timothy Olyphant along with Oscar winners Harden and William Hurt last season. And although Emmy voters still responded to the twisty, multi-layered drama, viewers did not, a fact the FX chief acknowledges.

"I was, you know, plainly disappointed with the ratings last year. You know, it’s a show that is a really demanding show. I mean, it’s one of those shows where you can’t watch three episodes out of 13. You can’t watch five out of 13. You can’t watch seven out of 13. You are in or you are out. And I think that type of programming doesn’t particularly suit the current programming environment and lifestyle of most people. I think they are more interested in dating than marriage, you know, when it come to shows. You know, they want to, kind of, dip in and dip out."

That raised the obvious question of whether "Damages," which was simultaneously renewed for a second and third season after the more successful first run, should have its structure or narrative tweaked for its next season.

"No," Landgraf replied. "It is what it is... [I]f we came back with 'Damages' next year and it was Patty Hughes as Perry Mason, and every week she broke someone down on the stand and got her man or woman, you guys would literally eviscerate me, and I would deserve it. So, no, you are not going to see that."

Later in the FX TCA day, "Damages" executive producer Todd A. Kessler was asked to address Landgraf's comments.

"[L]ook, we’d love for more people to be watching the show," Kessler said. "I think anyone who is working on a show would love for more people to be watching their show. We don’t try to second-guess what may get more ratings. We’re trying to do the best work that we can do that inspires us. And we’ve been joined by great actors. And, you know, this show would not survive on network television. That’s why we didn’t go to the networks to pitch it. We went to one place, which was FX, and they’ve been true to their word and have stuck by us. So it’s not really affecting what we’re doing, and we hope that, you know, as word spreads and, you know, different actors this season may bring a different audience, but we’re very happy with what we’re doing."

 

"Damages" will return to FX in early 2010. Stay tuned for that unexpected casting information on the new season.