Format: Hour-long drama
Air Date: 2010
Genre: Buddy-cop, neo-noir, crime drama
Created By: Ted Griffin
Cast: Donal Logue, Michael Raymond-James, Laura Allen, Kimberly Quinn, Jamie Denbo, Rockmond Dunbar
Similar Too: The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, Damages, Chinatown
While Shawn Ryan’s TV series The Shield had a long and successful run and spearheaded the basic-cable renaissance of the aughts, the man has had limited success with producing other series. Lie to Me, The Chicago Code and Last Resort were all quickly cancelled, despite receiving solid reviews. Terriers was yet another acclaimed show that Ryan produced that was cancelled due to low ratings after just one season, which is a real shame. Right from the pilot it was clear to critics that there was something really special about it, and the poor-viewership can almost entirely be attributed to lousy advertising. FX would air brief promos that merely showed images of dogs, which gave people the impression that it was a dog-centric reality show like The Dog Whisperer. Terriers is so far away from that, however, and it’s may shock some to hear that I would not hesitate to call it the strongest drama that FX has ever aired. Just one season of Terriers, was enough to best the lengthy runs of Sons of Anarchy, Nip/Tuck and possibly even forebear The Shield.
Although set in the present day, Terriers really sports a retro-pulp feel to it that harkens back to film-noir. I’d say even more so than a show like Justified. The show follows two private eyes, one being ex-cop Hank Dolworth (Donal Logue) and the other being former career criminal Britt Pollack (Michael Raymond-James). Through the 13 episodes we see these characters deal with individual cases, while ultimately uncovering a rather large Chinatown-esque conspiracy in the process.
Well, the premise certainly wasn’t enough to attract new viewers I take it. The idea of two mis-matched anti-heroes working as crime solvers has been done time-and-time again for high-concept television. Thing is, what’s most remarkable about Terriers is that the show feels very real. The characters have real-life problems as they face issues such as adultery, alcoholism, and divorce, all while juxtaposed with the shows case-of-the-week structure. Even the ideas for the cases, however, are more out-of-the-box than what you’d typically expect from what is ostensibly a buddy-cop show. Hank and Britt find themselves dealing with a masochist who wants to catch his wife in an affair for his own psychological benefit, or a boy who finds that his money was stolen by a transvestite that he mistook for a female prostitute. There’s never a dull moment, and episodes often climax with really memorable scenes. It’s been over a year since I watched the show, yet I can recall some parts with crystal clear memory.
The show’s human elements really come out through it’s developed characters, and powerful acting. While the two leads both get around equal screen time, it’s Hank who comes off as the larger of the two detectives, both in size and character. Donal Logue is probably best known for his role as the father on the relatively successful sit-com Grounded for Life (unless you’re a big fan of the first Blade movie), but he really shows his dramatic chops here. Hank is a great detective and an all-around likable guy, but he’s certainly struggling, as he has gone through a divorce, a firing, and a harrowing bout with alcoholism. He still has strong feelings for his ex-wife (Kimberly Quinn) but we see his devotion with her only hurts him more. The side characters are all fully realized as well (name another show that has a recurring character that smokes electronic cigarettes). Hank’s sister Stephanie (played by Donal’s actual sibling Karina) is a very bright spot for this already glowing series, as she acts somewhat like a real-life version of River from Firefly. Mentally unstable, but clearly a genius as well, the character is fascinating to watch, and I grieve over the amount of potential the writers could have taken her in had the show continued.
If there’s one solace to Terriers cancellation, it’s that it allows this single, tightly wound season of high-quality television to be mandatory and breezy viewing. Viewers can easily go through these 13 episodes at their own pace, and get the full Terriers experience, even if it may not be how the creators originally envisioned it. The show’s story line is mostly fleshed out by the end, it’s just that it ends with what was certainly intended to be a cliffhanger. Still though, the show’s ending can be seen as ambiguous rather than unfinished, and will certainly spark debate among your tv-watching buddies.
There have been plenty of shows that were pre-maturely cancelled that have since gone on to gain new recognition either through loyal cult fan-bases, or critical acknowledgement. Firefly(2002), Clerks(2000), and Party Down(2009-2010) have all garnered plenty of respectable viewers past their life-cycle. Thing is that Terriers is so damn good, after your done with it you almost instantly wish that someone would pull a Family Guy/Arrested Development with it and resurrect it! Well, the chances that the show will return as a series are nil indeed, but there is some hope that we might find the show resurrected in another medium. Shawn Ryan has expressed interest in completing the series as a TV-movie, and is hoping to get a Kickstarter campaign started for it to raise $2 million. Seeing that the Veronica Mars movie kickstarter made well over it’s $2 million goal (It’s currently raised $5,702,153) then it’s very feasible that we may soon see Hank and Britt again. Until then, catch up on Netflix to check out why you should be pledging your money in their direction.