Five Reasons to Watch the Ocean Beach ‘Terriers’

by on October 13, 2010 · 20 comments

in Culture, Labor, Media, Ocean Beach

Terriers - main actors

Michael Raymond-James' Britt Pollack and Donal Logue's Hank Dolworth - the stars and main characters in "Terriers".

Editor: Someday soon we’ll have our own local critics and reviewers of “Terriers” – the new FX television series filmed – mostly – in Ocean Beach. But until then, we  have to rely on others ….

by Ryan McGee /TV Squad / Oct 13th 2010

The fall season hasn’t treated new shows kindly. With few exceptions, not many programs made a critical splash, and one of the few that did (‘Lone Star’) got the boot after just two episodes.

It’s all well and good to think in theoretical terms about what can be done to ensure that only the safest, most inoffensive and blandest programming gets the green light in the near future. But I’m here to propose a simpler, more concrete, and potentially more effective way to combat a future slew of boring TV: watch FX’s ‘Terriers.’

Lost in the shuffle in more ways than one, ‘Terriers’ had quietly produced five consecutively strong episodes right out of the gate.

Whereas many shows find their footing through trial and error, this show seemed sure of itself from the start. In its tone, characterization, and overall mythology, ‘Terriers’ harkens back to the best of both film and television noirs, but puts its own unique spin on each of these areas.

In a recent edition of the podcast ‘Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan,’ a show I co-host with AOL’s Lead TV Critic Maureen Ryan, ‘Terriers’ co-creator Shawn Ryan told us both that while the show will definitely air its full, 13-episode first season, any chance for a second season will hinge on the audience it acquires over the initial run.

For those lamenting quality new programs in the television landscape, I have five reasons why you should be watching this under-appreciated gem.

1. The title refers to a personal ethos, not a breed of dogs. Why certain names connect with the general population and others don’t is for social anthropologists, more than television critics, to decide. But it’s clear that the name ‘Terriers’ either made people think of Animal Planet or Michael Vick. The ‘Terriers’ in question are two down-on-their-luck private investigators who stumble upon situations far too large for them to possibly solve on their own. And yet, through a combination of stubbornness, street smarts, and a nagging moral compass they see their way through to live another day. And in the world of this show, simply surviving is a feat unto itself.

2. These private eyes boast one of the most unique relationships on television right now. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of watching Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James play off each other, do yourself a favor and watch these two real-life friends onscreen. Whereas so many buddy relationships on TV create friction by playing off the inherent differences between two people, Logue’s Hank Dolworth and Raymond-James’ Britt Pollack truly enjoy each other’s company. That enjoyment is infectious, spills through the television, and makes their occasional confrontations have that much more impact. But it’s not all laughs and pats on the back.

3. The show is much darker, and hurts more, than you might think. Watching the promos for this show, you might think that this show would have a sunnier, lighter tone than it actually does. However, for a show that’s the brainchild of the writer of the ‘Ocean’s 11’ trilogy and the creator of ‘The Shield,’ what’s actually onscreen is a unique hybrid that’s equal parts of both franchises, while still producing its own unique viewpoint. Sure, Hank and Britt joke about, but often they joke about because the situations they find themselves in are so deadly serious that the humor turns into a coping mechanism. Just as the way audiences often laugh at shocking violence in order to relieve built-up stress, so too do these partners make the other one smile in order to keep them from crying out in horror. Logue, in particular, has shown haunting depths in the early goings: a former cop battling drug addiction, the loss of his ex-wife, and the nagging sense that everything around him is somehow corrupt. Which leads me to reason No. 4…

4. This ain’t the O.C., y’all. In terms of look and feel, ‘Terriers’ matches another recent, overlooked gem of a detective show, ‘Veronica Mars.’ Veronica’s hometown of Neptune, Calif. has a spiritual sibling in the Ocean Beach featured on ‘Terriers.’ For a place supposedly so sunny, everything is shot through a seemingly filthy lens, as if the corruption in the town gives off a visible vapor. (Without spoiling things, that vapor might not merely be metaphorical, according to the show’s ever-expanding mythology.) It also shares the same capacity to make violence count: both ‘Veronica Mars’ and ‘Terriers’ show its protagonists in dangerous situations in which violence is possible but hardly ever carried out. As such, when fisticuffs fly, they both shock the audience and leave real marks behind on the participants. Finally, speaking of shocking…

5. The show exploits audience expectations in order to produce unpredictable television. There’s a huge difference between shows that are “unpredictable” as opposed to “intentionally vague.” There’s a total time and place for the latter kind of programming, but the twists and turns in ‘Terriers’ stem not from the show’s writers purposefully teasing out answers while finding ways to prevent those solutions from emerging from the lips of its characters. Instead, ‘Terriers’ allows us to discover things along with Hank and Britt, which in turn allows them to discover things about themselves. Not only do their cases play against stereotypical type, but the ways in which this pair solves them also betrays conventional wisdom and action. Just watch Hank go through the mundane task of obtaining a mortgage in the stellar third episode ‘Change Partners’ and name another show that would produce that type of arc for its lead character.

Indeed, for its apparently conventional strappings, ‘Terriers’ delights in its overall disregard for conventional wisdom. You might think it’s too late to jump in now, but whether you catch up through On Demand, iTunes, or simply start watching this Tuesday’s episode as your first exposure, you’ll be enjoying one of the most unique hours of television currently on-air on any network. And in this day and age of increasingly safe TV, you owe it to yourself to give this stellar, scrappy show a chance to show what it’s got.

‘Terriers’ airs 10PM ET Wednesdays on FX at 10pm.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Shane Finneran October 13, 2010 at 4:02 pm

I’ve only seen the first ep, but Terriers definitely seems to have a unique edge. That first one had a character on crystal meth, for example – not something you often see in prime-time, but certainly part of what’s out there in our gritty world.

In this article, I like the bust on Lost-type shows in #5: “There’s a huge difference between shows that are “unpredictable” as opposed to “intentionally vague.” There’s a total time and place for the latter kind of programming, but the twists and turns in ‘Terriers’ stem not from the show’s writers purposefully teasing out answers while finding ways to prevent those solutions from emerging from the lips of its characters.”

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avatar Frank Gormlie October 13, 2010 at 4:28 pm

I am serious: OB needs to develop its own TV critics. If there is anyone who feels they are already at that point, please let us know. Send word to us via our email address: obragblog@gmail.com

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avatar Sarah October 13, 2010 at 4:33 pm

I’d do it, but I turned off cable TV about when McCain picked Palin as a running mate.

I just couldn’t deal…

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avatar Sarah October 13, 2010 at 3:47 pm

that’s a familiar corner….

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avatar bodysurferbob October 13, 2010 at 3:50 pm

i’m right wid ya, sarah, where is it?

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avatar Sarah October 13, 2010 at 3:52 pm

The Surfside Cottages at the base of the pier.

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avatar Frank Gormlie October 13, 2010 at 4:23 pm

We published a screen shot by FX and just happened to capture that corner. Is there a dif between “base” and “foot” of the pier? If there is a “foot” of the pier, where is the “head.” Oh, that’s right, the head is under the pier. LOL. (sorry Sarah, couldn’t avoid it)

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avatar Sarah October 13, 2010 at 4:32 pm

We with the head were under the pier! Perhaps if that were the case there wouldn’t be people peeing on our house!

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avatar BillRayDrums October 13, 2010 at 4:57 pm

I don’t have Television so it’s not readily accessible to me. I’ll wait until it’s out on YouTube or Netflix…

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avatar BillRayDrums October 13, 2010 at 5:10 pm

…or bittorrent. :p

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avatar Abby October 18, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Forget torrents, Sickbeard is the best! http://code.google.com/p/sickbeard/

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avatar Shane Finneran October 13, 2010 at 5:42 pm

You can stream full episodes from the show’s website:
http://vod.fxnetworks.com/watch/terriers

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avatar ilovetheoutdors October 13, 2010 at 7:09 pm

I think the show is pretty good.

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avatar justmy2cents October 13, 2010 at 7:10 pm

They were filming again Tuesday. Security guard told me it was Terriers so something must be going good… !!

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avatar Sarah October 13, 2010 at 7:28 pm

I’m not sure it follows that if they are filming more it’s good. There’s an awful lot of crap on TV that “they” keep making more of.

I’d probably be more kindly disposed towards them if they’d give us some warning that they are going to be making god-awful noise at 6:30am. It sucks to awaken to the clatter of steel things being dropped to the concrete outside the bedroom window.

I guess it’s the perils of paradise. Film crews and screaming vagrants.

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avatar Frank Gormlie October 13, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Tonight is Terriers: Season 1 Episode 6 ‘Ring-A-Ding-Ding’ – we’re heard that ” the guys go on a wild-goose chase through Ocean Beach’s more colorful precincts in search of an antique engagement ring.”

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avatar Avery October 14, 2010 at 3:58 pm

We stream directly from the website. Love the show, and we’re picky about TV (don’t even have cable). Here’s hoping it generates enough interest to stay in production!

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avatar Sarah October 16, 2010 at 8:02 am

We watched a couple of episodes and it’s pretty cool to see the shots of OB. I’m not ready to say it’s a great show, but it’s fun to see the familiar sights and such.

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avatar Kathryn Rogers October 20, 2010 at 7:44 am

I watched a couple of episodes until Dish dumped FX. Dang them!

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avatar Chris Moore October 20, 2010 at 10:30 pm

I like that RV hacker guy has a “US Out Of OB” sticker on his laptop ;)

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