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October 9, 2015

'Terriers' Season 1 Review

by Maureen Ryan, posted Sep 8th 2010 9:00AM
What it is: 'Terriers' follows best friends Hank Dolworth (Donal Logue) and Britt Pollack (Michael Raymond-James), two unlicensed private investigators in San Diego. Their dogged and sometimes comedic exploits earn them enemies in high places.

When it airs: 'Terriers' debuts on Wednesday 10PM on FX.

Hollywood occasionally offers modern updates on film noir, but television rarely does, which is a pity. What's not to love about broken-down detectives warily sniffing out the crimes of the rich and powerful? Betrayal, both personal and political, offers rich pickings to writers intrigued by the "mystery" half of "murder mystery."

San Diego seems to be a magnet for the few shows that explore noir-ish terrain; the late, lamented 'Veronica Mars' had a high school detective exposing the ugly side of the oceanside paradise. The diverting and enjoyable 'Terriers' occupies a different stylistic territory, but there's a noir strain underneath its shaggy exterior. As the best detective stories do, it features a smart, flawed lead character who is too stubborn and inquisitive for his own good.

Hank Dolworth is a newly sober, newly divorced former cop who's trying to make a go of it as a private detective; judging by the state of his beat-up truck, his new career path isn't exactly lucrative. Still, in his scruffy new gig, he gets to hang out with his best friend, the boyish and impetuous Britt, and together they get into all kinds of scrapes (if you want someone to steal your dog from your ex, these are the guys to call).

Despite the diverting dialogue and fine acting on display in first couple of episodes of 'Terriers,' it was hard to tell if, long term, there would be much meat on the bone, as it were. Was this just a shambling 'Burn Notice' starring a former cop instead of a former spy? There was something about the first and second hours of 'Terriers' that made me think it might have been better served as a summer series.

But over the course of its first five episodes, 'Terriers' displayed many more colors and Logue in particular got to show off a compelling range, from wounded sadness to appealing sincerity and fierce conviction. More importantly, the stakes were expertly raised for Hank and Britt, especially in the fourth and fifth episodes. The third episode featured a excellent guest turn from Olivia Williams in a surprising, melancholy tale, but after that, 'Terriers' went in an even more serious and satisfying direction.

In those later episodes, the show's ongoing mythology about a corrupt developer came to the fore, and one scene crystallized the appeal of 'Terriers': In a very vexing situation (there's a dead body involved), Hank and Britt have a debate about music that is both believable and amusing. 'Terriers' has distinctive dialogue throughout, but it's most effective when its employed in situations that have real stakes for the characters. On that score, the show only gets better as it progresses (there's a scene in the fifth episode between Hank and a shady lawyer that is flat-out brilliant).

Hank's ex, Gretchen, and Britt's girlfriend, Katie feel bland and perfunctory, but there's another female character who comes along and very nearly steals the show (saying more might ruin a good twist). The supporting cast is filled out ably by Rockmond Dunbar, who plays Detective Mark Gustafson, Hank's former police partner. Logue and Dunbar both have the ability to mine the comedy of a scene without overtly appearing to do so. They're a treat together.

'Terriers'' situation is similar to that of FX's 'Justified,' in some ways: The more serialized they are, the more dramatically compelling they are. There's a certain set in Hank's jaw when he feels that an injustice has been done, and it's that Hank I want to see more of.

Watch it if you loved:
'Veronica Mars,' 'Rockford Files,' 'Justified.' Also, the dialogue reflects the fact that 'Terriers' was created by 'Ocean's 11' writer Ted Griffin. And though the dialogue on 'Terriers is not quite as stylized, the FX show put me in the mind of the modern-day film noir 'Brick.' (Fun fact: Rian Johnson, the director of that film, helmed the the outstanding fifth episode of 'Terriers.' Bonus advice: You should rent 'Brick.')

Be aware that:
One of the show's executive producers is Shawn Ryan, creator of 'The Shield,' but don't expect a Vic Mackey vibe. Though there are increasingly serious stakes for Hank, the San Diego of 'Terriers' is lighter place than the Barn ever was.

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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Amazing show, period! I think it will go into a second season. Great cast, great theme song, interesting story lines, edge of your seat moments. The conversations between Britt and Hank are funny and clever. They are close buddies and it shows. They are superb together, and the female cast is excellent. 5 stars easily, I'm addicted. Check it out!

October 29 2010 at 3:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I watched the first episode of Terriers last night and I really, really liked it! It wasn't the standard shoot-em-up cop on the street fare, but was what I like to call "the thinking person's" drama. I hope this series makes it, the characters are complicated,(as are real people)and the plot has subtle layers that lend opportunity for future episodes.

September 10 2010 at 11:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mo Ryan

BK, the good thing about cable is that they always show the full roster of episodes they've ordered. So we'll see 13 Terriers episodes, no matter what, it won't get pulled early.

September 09 2010 at 5:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
B K Ray

Donal Logue is one of my favorite actors. I really enjoyed his last show on ABC, Knights of Prosperity. That was a wonderful show and cast. I also liked his work in Purple Violets, but I did not like his character, and his show on CBS Grounded for Life. I was seriously thinking about watching this show, but when Knights was cancelled, it really broke my heart. If It makes it to season two, I'll catch up, but I am not willing to do another Hooperman or Frank's Place. It really sucks when a TV show I enjoy doesn't make it. It really sucks.

September 08 2010 at 11:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They're filming mostly in OB, which is scummy enough to be a hotbed of most petty crime.

September 08 2010 at 1:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jesse Jackson

Looking forward to this one based on the creative team, glad to read that you enjoyed it.

September 08 2010 at 12:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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