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Five Reasons to Watch 'Terriers'

by Ryan McGee, posted Oct 13th 2010 6:00PM
TerriersThe fall season hasn't treated new shows kindly. With few exceptions, not many programs made a critical splash, and one of the few that did ('Lone Star') got the boot after just two episodes.

It's all well and good to think in theoretical terms about what can be done to ensure that only the safest, most inoffensive and blandest programming gets the green light in the near future. But I'm here to propose a simpler, more concrete, and potentially more effective way to combat a future slew of boring TV: watch FX's 'Terriers.'

Lost in the shuffle in more ways than one, 'Terriers' had quietly produced five consecutively strong episodes right out of the gate.

Whereas many shows find their footing through trial and error, this show seemed sure of itself from the start. In its tone, characterization, and overall mythology, 'Terriers' harkens back to the best of both film and television noirs, but puts its own unique spin on each of these areas.

In a recent edition of the podcast 'Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan,' a show I co-host with AOL's Lead TV Critic Maureen Ryan, 'Terriers' co-creator Shawn Ryan told us both that while the show will definitely air its full, 13-episode first season, any chance for a second season will hinge on the audience it acquires over the initial run.

For those lamenting quality new programs in the television landscape, I have five reasons why you should be watching this underappreciated gem.

1. The title refers to a personal ethos, not a breed of dogs. Why certain names connect with the general population and others don't is for social anthropologists, more than television critics, to decide. But it's clear that the name 'Terriers' either made people think of Animal Planet or Michael Vick. The 'Terriers' in question are two down-on-their-luck private investigators who stumble upon situations far too large for them to possibly solve on their own. And yet, through a combination of stubbornness, street smarts, and a nagging moral compass they see their way through to live another day. And in the world of this show, simply surviving is a feat unto itself.

2. These private eyes boast one of the most unique relationships on television right now.
If you haven't yet had the pleasure of watching Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James play off each other, do yourself a favor and watch these two real-life friends onscreen. Whereas so many buddy relationships on TV create friction by playing off the inherent differences between two people, Logue's Hank Dolworth and Raymond-James' Britt Pollack truly enjoy each other's company. That enjoyment is infectious, spills through the television, and makes their occasional confrontations have that much more impact. But it's not all laughs and pats on the back.

3. The show is much darker, and hurts more, than you might think. Watching the promos for this show, you might think that this show would have a sunnier, lighter tone than it actually does. However, for a show that's the brainchild of the writer of the 'Ocean's 11' trilogy and the creator of 'The Shield,' what's actually onscreen is a unique hybrid that's equal parts of both franchises, while still producing its own unique viewpoint. Sure, Hank and Britt joke about, but often they joke about because the situations they find themselves in are so deadly serious that the humor turns into a coping mechanism. Just as the way audiences often laugh at shocking violence in order to relieve built-up stress, so too do these partners make the other one smile in order to keep them from crying out in horror. Logue, in particular, has shown haunting depths in the early goings: a former cop battling drug addiction, the loss of his ex-wife, and the nagging sense that everything around him is somehow corrupt. Which leads me to reason No. 4...

4. This ain't the O.C., y'all. In terms of look and feel, 'Terriers' matches another recent, overlooked gem of a detective show, 'Veronica Mars.' Veronica's hometown of Neptune, Calif. has a spiritual sibling in the Ocean Beach featured on 'Terriers.' For a place supposedly so sunny, everything is shot through a seemingly filthy lens, as if the corruption in the town gives off a visible vapor. (Without spoiling things, that vapor might not merely be metaphorical, according to the show's ever-expanding mythology.) It also shares the same capacity to make violence count: both 'Veronica Mars' and 'Terriers' show its protagonists in dangerous situations in which violence is possible but hardly ever carried out. As such, when fisticuffs fly, they both shock the audience and leave real marks behind on the participants. Finally, speaking of shocking...

5. The show exploits audience expectations in order to produce unpredictable television. There's a huge difference between shows that are "unpredictable" as opposed to "intentionally vague." There's a total time and place for the latter kind of programming, but the twists and turns in 'Terriers' stem not from the show's writers purposefully teasing out answers while finding ways to prevent those solutions from emerging from the lips of its characters. Instead, 'Terriers' allows us to discover things along with Hank and Britt, which in turn allows them to discover things about themselves. Not only do their cases play against stereotypical type, but the ways in which this pair solves them also betrays conventional wisdom and action. Just watch Hank go through the mundane task of obtaining a mortgage in the stellar third episode 'Change Partners' and name another show that would produce that type of arc for its lead character.

Indeed, for its apparently conventional strappings, 'Terriers' delights in its overall disregard for conventional wisdom. You might think it's too late to jump in now, but whether you catch up through On Demand, iTunes, or simply start watching this Tuesday's episode as your first exposure, you'll be enjoying one of the most unique hours of television currently on-air on any network. And in this day and age of increasingly safe TV, you owe it to yourself to give this stellar, scrappy show a chance to show what it's got.
'Terriers' airs 10PM ET Wednesdays on FX.

Watch 'Terriers' full episodes online

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October 30 2010 at 6:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

All of these reasons are spot on. FX has been on a winning streak of late and Terriers is the new crowning gem.

The writers of this show are my heroes. Let's keep this on the air!

October 22 2010 at 12:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I know I am a little late in commenting, but this show is my new show and has a great vibe to it.

I do feel as if I am watching Rockford Files when I watch it. Yay Terriers.

October 20 2010 at 4:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

good tv. catch up on hulu.com

October 16 2010 at 5:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've been in love with Donal Logue for a long time now, and even watched "The Knights of Prosperity." I think he's fantastic in Terriers, and I'm happy to see that he's on a drama that may stick around for a while.

October 14 2010 at 10:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love this show and have told everyone I know how good it is. Unfortunately with the show's odd name and lack of ads -I've yet to see one-, my word of mouth campaign alone isn't drawing enough new viewers.
Please watch this show or they'll cancel it and you'll miss one of the very best shows of the year!

October 14 2010 at 10:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Amazing show, just amazing. I am very impressed with how consistent FX has been with the quality of their new shows, much like TNT and USA.

October 14 2010 at 8:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We're trying but to be honest, with it filmed in San Diego we always compare it to Veronica Mars and that's simply not fair. Mars was fantastic. Terriers is decent. The acting is fine but the characters are such everyday schmoes that it's hard to relate. If I want to know how an idiot handles a possible murder...well I'll talk to a friend/family member trying a murder case.

For TV to work the characters have to be a bit larger than life. Be it Omar or McNulty on The Wire to the beloved outsiders Veronica Mars and Logan Echolls - they had more going on than just being average. Sadly, the characters in Terriers, while mostly believable (the 911 call was insanely stupid even for a character supposed to be stupid), just don't have enough going on to make you want to watch them.

It is fun picking out the streets they're driving on though.

October 14 2010 at 2:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is really a wonderful ensemble effort anchored by Logue and Raymond-James. The poignancy in tonight's episode - with four separate relationships opened up and explored - incredible!

October 14 2010 at 2:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

easily best new show now that lonestar is off the air

October 14 2010 at 1:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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