Cable net FX hasn’t quite caught up with rival AMC when it comes to original, hour-long series. But they keep trying. Currently, FX has “Rescue Me,” “Damages,” “Sons of Anarchy,” and “Justified.” Good shows, sure, but not quite up to the Emmy-winning pop and sizzle of AMC’s “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.”
FX’s latest bid at critical and ratings gold comes from creator Ted Griffin (Ocean’s Eleven) and producer Shawn Ryan (“The Shield,” “The Unit”). “Terriers,” as the show is known, is your basic detective drama/comedy. It centers around a couple of low-rent crime-solvers in working-class Ocean Beach, near San Diego. Hank Dolworth (Donal Logue) is an ex-drunk/ex-cop who partners with his unambitious best friend Britt Pollack (Michael Raymond-James) to start an “unlicensed” detective agency. (“That way, we’ve got nothing to lose,” reasons Hank.) Like the titular canines, our heroes are small, scrappy, tenacious and a bit yappy.
Logue has been great in stuff like The Tao of Steve and “Grounded for Life” but just can’t seem to catch a rising star. Until now, Raymond-James was best known as Arlene’s dead babydaddy in “True Blood.” Thanks to their peppy on-screen chemistry, the actors are among the strongest assets of “Terriers.”
Each week, our flaw-filled heroes take on various crummy jobs like finding lost dogs. In the end, they get paid with things like free dry cleaning. “Miami Vice,” this ain’t. In fact, the show has more or less the same scruffy appeal as “The Rockford Files.” (Which, it should be noted, is being remade with Josh Holloway from “Lost.” ... And if I may indulge in a tangent for a moment: How cool is it that, with Daniel Dae Kim popping up in CBS’s “Hawaii Five-0,” we’ve got two “Lost” cast members remaking ’70s detective shows? Throw Matthew Fox in “Vega$” and we’ll have a trifecta working!)
Further enhancing the show’s gritty charm is a fine sprinkling of curse words and some sexually explicit subplots. “Look what we can get away with on cable!” value aside, this adds a measurable adult perspective. Fortunately, the show’s clever writing gives this demographic some hope as well. Most of the show’s humor comes from Hank and Britt’s nonstop dialogue—none of which is particularly punch-line-oriented, but has the feel of real-life logorrhea among friends.
What it lacks in showiness and sophistication, “Terriers” more than makes up for in authenticity and root-for-the underdog appeal. Although the show’s episodes are self-contained, there is a running storyline involving a rich (possibly murderous) real estate developer whom the boys manage to make a mortal enemy of in the first episode. Plots may revolve around lost dogs, but Hank and Britt are setting themselves up for some major trouble. Here’s hoping “Terriers” gives them plenty to get into.