Review: FX’s TERRIERS Season One

     September 6, 2010


In case you haven’t noticed, FX is on a hot streak for new series in 2010.  January: Archer.  March: Justified.  June: Louie.  That’s three for three.  You’ll be happy to know that the latest, Terriers, keeps the streak alive.

Terriers, an hourlong comedy-drama, centers on Donal Logue (Life) and Michael Raymond-James (True Blood) as friends and partners in an unlicensed private investigation business that’s “too small to fail.”  The show itself is not too small to fail, given the talent behind the camera: Ted Griffin (Ocean’s Eleven) is the creator, with Shawn Ryan (The Shield) and Tim Minear (Dollhouse) executive producing.  Griffin knows his way around crime stories; Ryan and Minear know television. Throw in an infectious theme song, and you’ve got yourself a show.  Hit the jump for a review of the first five episodes of season one.

terriers_fx_donal_logue_michael_raymond_james_image_01The initial episodes of Terriers suggest that — like network/spiritual cousin Justified — the show will straddle the line between “serial” and “procedural” television.  Most weeks should offer up a new client, a new case.  But the pilot introduces a conspiratorial throughline that should permeate the first season, if not the entire series.

Hank Dolworth (Logue) is a disgraced ex-cop and recovering alcoholic, now many months sober.  An old drinking buddy comes to Hank and  partner Britt Pollack (Raymond-James), asking for their help in finding his daughter.  The task seems manageable at first, but the daughter was connected to some shady characters, and the case quickly becomes way too much for their rinky-dink operation.

Like any great maguffin, the conspiracy services the plot without being particularly engaging on its own merits.  The show lives and breathes by the relationship at the center: Logue and Raymond-James deliver.  With a capital “D.”   The friendship Logue and Raymond-James established prior to casting is now an ineffable part of the show’s lore.  (They bonded over a copy of Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur when the latter guested on NBC’s Life, which starred the former.)  I’m sure both are great at their craft, capable of faking that type of bond on screen — but their familiarity must have made things easier.  The banter, breezy and fraught with non-sequitirs, is a show highlight.

terriers_fx_donal_logue_image_08I can’t point to anything I’ve loved Logue in before now, but this is a fantastic vehicle for his savvy slacker persona.  The show requires a broad range from the actor, from throwaway punchlines to deep emotional moments, and Logue nails each and every beat.  I came into Terriers with more admiration for Raymond-James, based on his Cajun-fried work on True Blood.  He keeps the pace with Logue, and his scruffy charm plays well with the series’ sun-soaked beach backdrop.

This is very much the Hank & Britt hour, but there are a couple female presences worth highlighting.  Laura Allen (Dirt) is  nearly relegated to the role of “The Nagging Girlfriend,” but she and the writers have consciously crafted something different.  She gets a kick out of less-than-legal practices of the PIs, and so injects each scene with a life that “The Nagging Girlfriend” prefers to suck out of the air.  Likewise, Mr. Logue’s off-screen twin Karina Logue (Justified) is a hoot as his on-screen sister Steph.  The nature of her role is best kept as a surprise, but it’s a good example of the writers’ ability to milk authentic drama from soapier plot developments.

In short, Terriers achieves just the right balance of its many ambitions, thanks in large part to great central performances and clever writing.  Terriers premieres Wednesday September 8th at 10/9c on FX.