Greetings to the New Series: “Terriers”

One hates to fall back on the hoary old “if you looked up such-and-such in the dictionary, you’d find a picture of (INSERT NAME HERE)” cliche if it can possibly be helped, so rather than bringing up the topic of character actors and plugging the name “Donal Logue” between the parentheses, can we at least agree that there are precious few individuals who are so readily identified as “that guy who was in that thing we watched that time”?

I mean, seriously, God love you, Donal, but it takes a real character actor to be able to headline two seriously funny sitcoms (“Grounded for Life” and “The Knights of Prosperity”), one of which ran for five freaking seasons (that’d be the former), and still be known as “that guy who was in that thing we watched that one time.”

Still, my fingers are crossed that Logue’s latest series, FX’s “Terriers,” will be the one that finally cements his name in the collective consciousness of today’s TV viewers…and, for that matter, let’s hope it also helps out his co-star, Michael Raymond-James, because these two guys have got some great chemistry going on. Fortunately, with a trio of executive producers that includes Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”), Ted Griffin (“Ocean’s Eleven”), and Tim Minear (“Angel,” “Firefly,” and “Dollhouse,” as well as several series not created by Joss Whedon, including “Wonderfalls”), it was always a given that “Terriers” would capture the attention of the critics, and by virtue of being on FX, the chances of the show surviving long enough to build a decent-sized audience are pretty solid.

Oh, and did we mention that it’s also really, really good?

Hank Dolworth (Logue) and Britt Pollack (Raymond-James) are private detectives…sort of. I mean, that’s what they call themselves, anyway. And they do drive around and help find missing people and secure evidence to confirm spousal infidelity, all the while collecting some kind of payment for their trouble. Maybe not cash. Maybe only, say, free dry cleaning. But, hey, payment’s payment, right? Well, not really. Especially not when you’re trying to pay the rent. (Landlords don’t tend to accept free dry cleaning as valid tender.) Plus, there’s the little fact that neither Hank nor Britt actually have a license to play detective, a technicality which Hank dismisses by claiming that they actually do have one, but they find that they’re far less likely to lose it if they leave it back at the office.

Basically, Hank and Britt are what you’d call “lovable losers,” but deciding which word to emphasize in the expression depends on the individual. For instance, it’s clear that Gretchen (Kimberly Quinn), Hank’s ex-wife, still loves the man she once married, but even though he’s sober now, she’s endured his substance abuse problems, his subsequent departure from the police force, and his consistently low bank account for far too long to really view him as a success. Gretchen has moved on with her life, so much so that she’s selling their former domicile and is preparing to get remarried; Hank, however, has too many memories to divest himself of the past so easily, which is why he immediately tries to buy the house from her. Britt, meanwhile, has a pretty good thing going with his girlfriend, Katie (Laura Allen), and they might just stick together for the long haul, provided he can actually convince himself that he’s ready to take it to the next level…which, as it happens, is something Katie’s got to do, too.

Watching the pilot for “Terriers,” you’re left a little bit uncertain about what to expect from the series: it starts out like a buddy comedy, with best buds Hank and Britt solving crimes, but between the drama in the characters’ relationships and the sudden turn into darker territory when they set out to find the missing daughter of one of Hank’s former drinking buddies, it all feels a little schizophrenic. Even if you’re on the fence, though, the aforementioned chemistry between Logue and Raymond-James will likely prove sufficient to bring you back for another episode, and if it does, then not only will you start to get more of a feel for what “Terriers” is going to be like on a weekly basis – the case the guys resolve in the pilot proves far from resolved, resulting in a thread that connects subsequent episodes – but you’ll also see find yourself further intrigued by these two guys and their lives. Detective Mark Gustafson (Rockmond Dunbar), Hank’s former partner on the force, plays a major role in the series, serving as a constant reminder of Hank’s past…and not just figuratively: he pointedly confronts Britt at one point and tells him to be prepared for the inevitability that Hank will let him down in a big way.

Not only does “Terriers” feel like another creative victory for FX, but based on what we’ve seen thus far, it also looks to be the kind of show that will reward its regular viewers while still offering enough in the way of self-contained cases and “previously on…” intros to allow curious outsiders into the world of Hank and Britt.

This is gonna be the one that does it for you, Donal. I can feel it.

  

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