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Review: Terriers 1x1

Posted on September 10, 2010 | comment | Bookmark and Share

Terriers

In the US: Wednesdays, 10pm, FX

You know, I can remember a time when practically every TV show was about private detectives. Riptide, Tucker's Witch, Simon and Simon, Magnum PI, The Rockford Files - no one did cops, it was always private detectives. Now they're rarer than an ice cream at the Arctic.

But look, here comes one! It's called Terriers and stars Donal Logue (Life, The Knights of Prosperity) as a shabby, unlicensed private detective who deals purely with the small-time - until an old friend asks him to find his daughter. Then things start to get big.

With Ted Griffin (Ocean's Eleven) and Shawn Ryan (The Shield, The Unit) as exec producers, you'd presumably have high hopes for Terriers. Indeed, it has some fun dialogue, a decent plot and gritty edges. So why has it got the worst launch ratings of any FX show ever and why was I yawning all the way through it?

Plot
Terriers from Creator/Executive Producer Ted Griffin (Ocean’s Eleven, Matchstick Men) and Executive Producer Shawn Ryan (The Shield), is a comedic drama starring Donal Logue (The Tao of Steve) and Michael Raymond-James (True Blood). It centers on “Hank Dolworth” (Logue), an ex-cop, who partners with his best friend “Britt Pollack” (Raymond-James) in an unlicensed private investigation business.

Comedic, edgy, original, a show about high stakes in the face of low expectations, Terriers explores what it’s like in today's America to be “too small to fail.” Co-stars include Laura Allen (Dirt) as “Katie,” Britt’s girlfriend; Rockmond Dunbar (Prison Break) as “Detective Mark Gustafson,” former colleague of Hank; and Jamie Denbo (Weeds) as “Maggie Lefferts,” Hank’s attorney. Craig Brewer (Hustle and Flow, The Shield) directed the pilot episode. Terriers is produced by Fox 21.

Is it any good?
Most of the show is good. Terriers looks at people who don't have a lot of money, aren't necessarily great at their jobs, and although they're trying hard, aren't really succeeding. It's a nice change from the usual high achievement you see in US TV shows.

I'm not a big Donal Logue fan, but he's fine. The plotting and the dialogue are fine and the supporting cast is fine. Michael Raymond-James is fine.

Now the plot itself was pretty ordinary. Logue and his partner are doing menial jobs for menial money then have to track down a missing girl, only it turns out she's gotten mixed up with a powerful man. It's classic PI stuff - you can't get more classic PI stuff than that. But as soon as she turned up, it became apparent that she was about 10 million times more interesting than the main characters, which really put things into focus and made me realise why I was bored and uninvolved with the show: the characters just aren't interesting and despite its alleged comedy-drama status, it's also not very funny.

Shabby private detective, former cop, down on his luck, has a rocky relationship with his ex-wife and a drink problem: I have seen this character. You've seen this character. This character is everywhere. There is literally nothing more than can be said about this character. He cannot be made interesting. Make it a woman and we might be getting somewhere, but it's not - it's a guy failing and eeking out an existence while solving crimes.

Done.

Old partner who's still on the force and has to chew on something other than a cigarette because he's giving them up? Seen it.

Ex wife who's trying to move on, but still friends with the detective? Seen it.

There's nothing new here. With some more interesting characters, particularly female characters, this could have been a good show, but unfortunately, it just isn't at the moment. So despite the obvious talent that's gone into the script, it's a shame to have to say that Terriers is so subdued, low key and unexciting, that despite the ongoing story arc - which does at least promise things might get better - as well as the decent scripting in the other areas, I'm not recommending this. I'll still watch it to see if it gets better, but honestly I don't think it will.

Here's hoping that this won't stop some more private detective shows from being made.

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  • While I agree that many elements of this show are rehashes, I thought the writer's handling of them was much more deft than you normally see elsewhere. The performances were pretty great, and I thought the show had more than enough humor to qualify as a comedy. On top of that, the humor that was displayed was through character qualities and relationships, which was incredibly refreshing.

    I think the show has a lot of promise, and some of the set-ups at the end of the pilot have a lot to do with that feeling. The episode itself was a little weak, but it set up the tone and incited the arc of the show/season.

    I thought that the weakest and most incongruous part of the episode was Rachel Miner guest starring. It was jarring to the tone and pace of the show. Maybe that's just because I remember her from her Californication days, but in my defense, she came out of nowhere in this episode, and didn't do much to establish herself as a character.

    All in all, I was impressed. I'd recommend giving it another shot.

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