UPDATE 12/15/10: Terriers has been cancelled by FX, but please still watch the first season. You’ll be glad you did. It was an amazing show and perhaps it can be brought back under a different title with a better marketing campaign.
When I first started hearing about the new shows for the Fall 2010 season I was incredibly underwhelmed. The show I had the most hope for was an FX program called “Terriers”. The fact that it was on FX, which has some of the best shows on television spoke volumes about. Plus one of the show runners was Shawn Ryan, the guy who created one of the best cop shows of all time “The Shield”. So I was very curious about “Terriers”. I started to do some research into the show and the early video ads I found were a little confusing. They concentrated mostly on a dog and not the characters or the show. So I didn’t know what to make of it.
Then one day when I went to the movies and before the film I saw what amounted to an extended commercial for theshow. It was a lot more revealing. It showed that this program really didn’t have anything to do with dogs at all. It was a private detective show that took place in a fictional Southern California town and at the center of the story was a friendship between two unlikely detectives, ex-cop Henry “Hank Dolworth” and ex-thief Britt Pollack. So my hopes were raised a little. Then I saw the pilot and and all 13 episodes of “Terriers” first season and I was blown away.
Unfortunately the ratings for the season were, to be quite frankly, terrible. It seemed like people had no idea that the show existed or what it was even about. I was able to turn some people onto it though and they loved it. It seems liek every one who does give the series a chance is glad they did. So “Terriers” needs more people to discover the show so it can get renewed for another season. The first season is now over but there’s still time to catch up on it.
First let’s start off with a clip that gives you some idea about what to expect from the show:
That clip does an especially god job hinting at some of the more comedic moments in the series and there are lots of them. “Terriers” is a really funny show. The show’s two lead actors Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James are great at comedic banter and some really funny scenes arise out of the situations in the episodes. “Terriers” though is also a really dramatic and intense show. For most of the first season ex-cop Hank Dolworth is a haunted guy. He’s a recovering alcoholic, so he’s haunted by the mess he made of his life when he was drinking. He lost both his wife and his career. His ex-wife is getting remarried and Hank still isn’t quite over her. So he has to deal with that as well. Then lastly in the pilot his friend Mickey Gosny is murdered by some pretty powerful people. So it fires Hank up and it motivates him through out the season.
Gosny’s murder is part of the serial element of the show’s first season. That element pops up a number of times in Hank and Britt’s cases in the first season in the form of some very powerful, and very shady bussiness people who are looking to do some unscrupulous things to the town of Ocean Beach. As in all great P.I. fiction Hank and Britt try to fight back against these powerful enemies in anyway they can ,but they are major underdogs. In episode 13 much of this element is tied up, but in a way that leaves room for it to return if there is (and I sincerely hope there is) a second season
Terriers is also great because of the characters. The two protagonists Hank and Brit are believable and genuine friends. The chemistry between them is just awesome. The women in their lives are also pretty interesting. Gretchen, Hank’s ex-wife, genuinely cares about him and is trying to do the difficult thing of staying close with him and moving forward with her life at the same time. Several episodes into the series Hank’s sister the brilliant but mentally ill Stef shows up. She’s played by Donal Logue’s real life sister Karina and the chemistry between the actors is also remarkable. Stef’s character has some funny lines and her storyline is very poignant. Brit is dating and madly in love with Katie, a student of veterinary medicine. They live together and care about each other a great deal, but are struggling to figure out the next step in their relationship. Laura Allen, the actress who plays Katie, is especially great. She gives the character a lot of genuine emotion and best of all her emotional responses to certain things are not exactly what you expect, but they still are believable.
The other supporting cast of characters in the first season of “Terriers” are also very cool. There’s Mark Gustafson, Hank’s ex-partner on the Ocean Beach Police Force. He does what he can to help his former partner, but you can tell he bears some emotional scars from the way their professional relationship ended. From time to time, Hank and Britt utilize the services of a group of renegade tech-savy hackers. These characters aren’t in many episodes but they’re so interesting and so funny they steal almost every scene they’re in. Then there’s Ben Zeitlin; a powerful lawyer who is the main villain of the show for much of the first season. Michael Gaston does a great job playing him. Zeitlin just oozes menace. He’s a smug character you love to hate, but he also radiates enough power that he’s genuinely scary.
If that’s still not enough. Let me appeal to certain fans of other stories. If you love these things you’ll love “Terriers”
Just like “Veronica Mars”, “Terriers” is primarily about some average people trying to find justice in a small California town where a corrupt wealthy elite can get away with many things including muder. “Terriers” also has a sort of season long mystery just like the best seasons of “Veronica Mars”
The Rockford Files
Granted I’ve never seen an episode of “The Rockford Files” but I know what people love about it. They love James Garner’s very real portrayal of a Private Eye. He gets into trouble and he gets hurt. Plus he’s a charismatic and believable guy. People who love these aspects of Ganer’s Jim Rockford will love Logue and Raymond-James’s portrayal of Hank Dolworth and Britt Pollack
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
One of the things that makes “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” work is the friendship and chemistry between the two lead actors. The other is the overwhelming situations the characters find themselves in. In “Terriers” both those crucial and enjoyable elements are present in spades
Novels by the writer Don Winslow
Don Winslow is one of my favorite writers. His past few novels have been a perfect balance of both the humor and high drama that come from crime stories in Southern California towns like San Diego. “Terriers” is that as well.
So if any of what I said appeals to you please go back and give “Terriers” a chance! You’ll be glad you did. You can purchase the entire season via iTunes or Amazon.com’s on demand video service. You can also catch up on this season’s final few episodes via Hulu.
These days the world probably knows Dennis Lehane best as the author of the novels that would become the films “Mystic River”, “Gone Baby Gone”, and “Shutter Island”. I was lucky enough to discover him several years ago when I was just becoming a fan of crime fiction. Crime fiction and comic writer Greg Rucka recommended Lehane to me. So I went back and started with Lehane’s very first novel, “A Drink Before the War”, which introduced me to his team of private investigators, Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. I loved it and quickly devoured all 5 novels in the series. The final book appeared to be 1999’s “Prayers for Rain”. I then followed Lehane to his later books like “Mystic River”, “Shutter Island” and his last book “The Given Day”, a magnum opus of historical fiction that I thought was the best thing he wrote. It wasn’t exactly a crime novel, so I was surprised to find out that his newest novel “Moonlight Mile” is a return to Patrick and Angie.
“Moonlight Mile” occurs in the present day so it’s been a decade since we last saw Patrick and Angie and in that time a lot has happened. The duo has married and have a cute and precocious young daughter named Gabby. They’ve ended their professional relationship though. Angie watches Gabby during the day and takes classes at night. Patrick meanwhile is still a detective. These days though the job he takes are less life threatening but more stomach churning; he’s a contractor for a large law firm and his cases usually involve protecting the bottom line of wealthy and morally bankrupt individuals. That all changes though when a face from their past arrives and gets them involved in the violent world they thought they left behind.
I try to keep my reviews spoilers free, but at this point I have to post some spoiler warnings. If you haven’t read Lehane’s “Gone Baby Gone” or seen director Ben Affleck’s wonderful adaptation of it stop reading now because “Moonlight Mile” is a direct sequel. In “Gone Baby Gone” Patrick and Angie go looking for a kidnapped child and discover that the kidnappers who took the child did so because the child’s mother was unfit to look after her. At the end of the book Patrick had to make a tough choice but decided kidnapping was still kidnapping and returned the child to her mother.
In “Moonlight Mile” Amanda is now 16 and she’s gone missing again. So Amanda’s aunt, who hired Patrick and Angie all those years ago reaches out to Patrick to go find her. His search for Amanda once again brings Patrick face to face with Amanda’s awful mom and her new identity thief boyfriend. It also embroils him in the affairs of the local branch of the Russian Mafia. Plot wise it’s a fairly exciting, and often quite funny. It does feel like Lehane has been down this territory before though.
The characters also felt a little off at first too. That could have been the point though. Patrick once again is the first person narrator and it takes awhile for him to feel like the Patrick of old. And Angie is still as fiery as ever but she only plays an active role in the middle part of the story. Lehane also brings back my favorite supporting character Bubba Rogowski and Bubba’s aged well. He’s still tough as nails, a little sociopathic, and very funny.
Lehane also employs some well developed and compelling new characters. The grown up Amanda McReady is a fascinating character. She’s incredibly cunning and determined. Yefim is an affable Russian hitman. His pleasant demeanor and his penchant for violence make his scenes fascinating.
When you finish “Moonlight Mile” you leave with a sense that Lehane came back to these characters to give them a proper goodbye, and with the ending he does just that. I finished the book satisfied with Patrick and Angie’s final case and how they’re life was going to turn out. So on its own “Moonlight Mile” is a compelling read, but when you compare it to Lehane’s other works like “The Given Day” or some of the other Kenzie-Gennaro novels, like “Darkness Take My Hand” it’s not as good