Terriers (2010)

FX is like Spike TV’s older smarter brother. The shows skew male, but have plenty in them to attract female viewers. I can’t think of a show on FX I don’t like, even the ones I don’t watch (Justified) I at least sampled and just decided I didn’t have time this season for them. I can’t say the same for HBO and Showtime which too often substitute boobs and gore for storytelling. (Although, this week on FX was male ass week, thankfully Louie ended last week) The Shield may have been unfairly compared to The Sopranos, but had more gas, was more emotional than The Sopranos and had a pitch perfect ending. That’s been FX’s problem, their shows get criticized as pay cable knock-offs and that’s unfair. Damages was easily better than any HBO show had on since The Wire (Sorry critics, HBO and David Simon failed with Treme, show don’t preach). As is Sons of Anarchy, although, so far, the new season is narratively running faster than I able to keep up. I like a show to be ahead of me, but SOA so byzantine, I’m lost on all the fine points of the Irish plot-line.
I think I know why FX isn’t given it’s due by critics, almost all of the network’s shows deals with very smart and resourceful poorer characters. Damages is the exception, but even the last season dealt with class in an almost Dickensian way. (How long have I been waiting to use ‘Dickensian,’ pretty long.) It’s Always Sunny—dirt poor. SOA–oh yea, poor. Even the middle class shows deal with financial problems. On regular TV, Showtime and HBO (except True Blood, but still nobody can miss that much work) everybody’s doing OK. Money isn’t the conflict, so the character’s problem and views on life are just different, more esoteric, less practical. (OK, I’m forgetting Nip/Tuck, but that was a cartoon of wealth)
The bikers on SOA read and are crafty and conflicted problem solvers, as on the little bit I saw of Justified and this new show Terriers.
I like FX because it seems to be programmed by Sawyer from Lost. Does that make sense?

Terriers has been compared to The Rockford Files and that’s fair up to a point. Hank and Britt are down on their luck unlicensed PI’s is coastal San Diego. The cliched parts—Hank (Donal Logue) is a recovering alcoholic disgraced cop kicked off the force because of an unnamed incident. He has an ex he’s trying to get back together with and she has a secret (it’s super easy to guess what her secret is, it’s what all ex’s do to the hero who’s still longing for them). She’s in the credits, but I’m not sure how she’ll stay around after the first two episodes I saw. Hank’s the motormouth with the plans, pretty much every character Donal Logue has ever played, but he’s damn good at those kinds of characters and he’s good here because he has someone to play off of. Britt (Michael Raymond James) is the quiet, more straightforward and deliberate partner. He was in jail, but of the two, seems less impulsive than Hank. Britt has a live-in girlfriend, a veterinarian student, who serves as the BS detector in the show. She’s a great counterpart to the two main leads and more naturally fits in the show. The last main character is the tough-as-nails cop (Rockmond Dunbar formerly of Prison Break) who was Hank’s former partner. He’s the duo’s ongoing adversary (and secret friend) and a constant reminder of how Hank’s life could of been. In the original Rockford Files, I was always annoyed at how dumb the cops were, but here, the cops seem smarter and, I think, a bit more willing to help the PI’s. Like in Rockford, they get all the credit for the major collars.

One of the reasons I’m not a fan of procedural shows like CSI and Law and Order is the static nature of the storytelling (body, questioning, twist, villain caught) and how they reset every episode like an ’80’s sitcom. You’d think the violent nature of their jobs and the sloooowww nature of police work would lead to more serialized elements like in Homicide and The Wire. The past would come back. Shit would mess people up.
Fortunately, Terriers has a serialized element or at least hints at one in the first two shows. That’s a big plus for me. The second plus is that the heros aren’t true blue. They cheat and lie and each case has a haphazard path to conclusion. Plus, those conclusions, in the first two shows weren’t what was expected. They’ll abandon one case to chase a larger one. I like that, it ensures the show won’t easily fall into a rut, case-wise, uses the methods they use to solve them as character enhancement. Also, being poor, they tend to barter to pay the rent, that’s cool. (One sub-plot shows just how valuable a dry cleaner can be.)
I like the show. The biggest draw is the easy-going banter between Britt and Hank, there’s a lot of ball-busting humor, but it’s okay because they’re friends. The writing is whip-smart and fun. And if you look at the credits, the producers, writers, directors all come from shows I’ve like in the past, so I’m willing to overlook any flaws as I’m sure they know what they’re doing. An example, Terriers hasn’t explained it’s title yet, but has on a few occasions goofed with what the audience may think the title means.
They’re having fun and Terriers is a generally light show about darker people, like Veronica Mars or Buffy.
I’m not 100 percent sold on adding the show to the rotation as I already have a bunch of shows I follow. If Shells want to watch it, I’m in. I do plan to give the show 5 episodes (My Mad Men rule—I hated the first two Mad Men, but by show five, I was hooked) before I decide. Next week looks fun, Olivia Williams (Dollhouse) will be on in what looks like a weird sex case.

It’s late, night night.
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