Thankful for Terriers


I’d like to interrupt this unplanned blog hiatus – yes, it’s been one of those semesters – to give thanks for this year’s best new show: Terriers. I’d been planning on posting a blog about Terriers after a few episodes, but I’m glad I got too busy to write it, as the show has transformed into something much more engaging and powerful since then. What started out as a shaggy good time has emerged into taught double character study packing a surprise emotional wallop.

Before diving into a longer (non-spoilery) celebration of the show, I want to encourage readers to join the campaign to convince FX to renew the series for a second season. The ratings have been quite bad, despite nearly universal critical praise and a very active fanbase on Twitter. While Nielsen ratings are a fatally flawed system for measuring viewer engagement, they’re still the main metric that networks and cable channels use to gauge viewership and sell it to advertisers. But unlike with the ratings-challenged shows of previous eras, there are actually ways for fans without Nielsen boxes to have their fandom count in somewhat meaningful ways.

The best thing that a fan can do – as well as anyone who hasn’t seen the show and wants to give it a chance – is to buy an episode on iTunes or Amazon, as FX is reportedly tracking these numbers. All twelve episodes that have aired are available, but if you’ve not seen the show and want to give it a try – or if you love the show but want your fandom to register in FX’s eyes – I’d recommend buying the episode “Pimp Daddy” on iTunes or Amazon. Some fans are trying to coordinate a “Pimp Terriers Day” for the day of the season finale, December 2, with coordinated purchases of the episode (which is an excellent example of the show, focused on a great case involving a transexual prostitute) and proclamations of “I love Terriers so much I’m willing to pay for it!” on your favorite social networks. By focusing on that one episode, we hope that FX will see a concerted effort to support the show through the sales figures.You can also watch on Hulu, or go to the fansite to see links to a range of legal ways to watch the show. None of these will compensate for the poor ratings, but they make more of an impact than just sending an email to FX (which you should do as well!).

Why should we care about the fate of Terriers? At first, the show seemed like a throwback drama to the low-rent charms of the classic private eye drama The Rockford Files. Focusing on a pair of down-and-out unlicensed investigators, the early episodes of the season spent time developing a robust sense of place in the quirky San Diego community of Ocean Beach, with lead charaacters Hank & Britt trying to stay afloat amidst cases that quickly sink deeper into danger. My favorite facet early on was the breezy chemistry between the stellar Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James (whose smile completely lights up the screen!), two shaggy guys who seemed to just love hanging out together. With crisp & clever dialog and tight plotting, the show started out as a fun episodic crime show with some good character arcs, a fine sense of place, and a sharp crew of supporting players.

And then shit started going down. Hank & Britt find themselves wrapped up in a major case of urban corruption, and both of them face huge personal crises forcing some moral quandaries, all of which get wrapped up together in a jumbled mess of a situation. It still is a shaggy show, but the shagginess serves as an overlay for impressive emotional melodrama and heavily serialized arcs. What we’ve seen in the last few intense episodes builds on the character and situational foundation that was built in the early calmer episodes. And we’re left with a level of high-stakes emotional tension rarely seen on television outside of my other favorite current show, Breaking Bad.

This season-long design makes for stellar drama that will play especially well on DVD (or binging now on iTunes or Amazon!), but clearly hurts the goal of building an audience in weekly installments. Anyone who watched an early episode and found it too episodic or lightweight might not stick around for the late-season payoffs. And once things got really intense, it might be off-putting for new viewers trying to catch up with the arcs. While not as tightly serialized as HBO shows like Deadwood or The Wire, Terriers certainly has a similar sense of the season as a cohesive emotional unit, not a set of interchangeable episodes.

But since the weekly episodic model is still the primary way that serialized storytelling is funded on television, we’re faced with the tough situation of convincing FX that ratings would improve for a second season once the word-of-mouth on the DVDs grows. So do what you can and pimp Terriers next week – buy an episode (or twelve), spread the word, and hope that FX invests in the future of Hank and Britt!

8 Responses to “Thankful for Terriers”

  1. 1 Angela

    Ah, I suspected, but now I know, I’ve found a kindred spirit. I recently wrote on a TV web-site, that Terriers reminded me of Breaking Bad in the way that it’s such an intensely filled hour of TV. (Or however many real minutes comprise of an episode.) I love when one of my passions coincides with someone else’s passion. Now it’s two shows for 2.

    Really, if there is any TV show that could compete with Breaking Bad, it’s Terriers. People just haven’t seen it yet or they would know it too.

    I’m doing my part, the best I’m able, to get the word out, and to do all the other things suggested, to keep this show around for another year. And if it doesn’t happen I swear I will give up on TV all together because these stupid ratings things just don’t coincide with quality TV.

    If you still aren’t convinced then please, just watch Terriers. Keep an open mind if you need too. We could use a lot more of that anyway. You won’t be disappointed. Not if you enjoy being totally entertained with raw emotion, humor, & thoughtfulness.

    And after wednesday night’s viewing, LIVE of course, and Hulu too, here’s too watching Terriers, same place, same time, next year.

    To all of you at Terriers, thank you for such wonderful, smart, engrossing, sheer pleasure to watch, entertainment.

  2. 2 Angela


    This is the first time I’ve seen your blog, the Terriers piece, and already I see a few more posts I would like to read. For instance, this one, “Why, despite myself, I am not leaving Facebook. Yet.” With a title like I just have to read it because it resonates with me.

    Anyway, just wanted to say, sorry I repeated so much of what you already wrote much more eloquently, about Terriers. My reply turned into a plea for people to watch the show. Not sure how that happened, except I seem to turn into a groupie of things I really enjoy. Or did you already figure that out? 🙂


  3. 3 Jennifer

    Yes – please keep telling everyone about this great show ! In the age of reality tv and shows geared towards teeny boppers, it is so refreshing to have a show with such complex characters AND plots. When I saw Tim Minear’s name attached, I knew I had to watch – he is always involved in programs I enjoy.

  4. 4 Tano Sokolow

    It is a great show, I watched the whole season. Sure hope it gets renewed. It’s amazing that in 2010 we’re still using the Nielsen ratings. They could track things so much more accurately than that.

  1. 1 Tweets that mention Thankful for Terriers « Just TV --
  3. 3 “I’m Willing To Pay For It!” « TERRIERISTS
  4. 4 Favorite TV of 2010 (in alpha order) : Michael Lahey

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