Commentary: The Terrific Terriers - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
6Nov/100

Commentary: The Terrific Terriers

Noir is not something that ended in the 50's or died out when the kings of the field started to pass on. Noir is a genre that might lay dormant but can come roaring back at any moment and if done well, can kick the ass of the viewer and make them pay attention. One such example of a noir influenced show firing on all cylinders is FX’s Terriers. Not only is Terriers the best use of the noir trappings being used presently but it is also one of the top 3 shows on TV. It is a shame that no one is watching the best thing to happen to noir in years.

When I mean no one, I am not exaggerating that fact. It has been averaging 500,000 people per show, less than 4 times the viewers of other shows on FX can pull in. Even worse is while the numbers started out horrible, they continued to plummet until it reached a leveling off period. While there are some very devoted and vocal fans of the show with numbers this low and this ugly, the chance of gaining any more viewers are slim. Yet, I come not to talk about Terriers problems, I come to tell everyone why they should be watching this wonderful show.

A staple of noir is that the main character is someone, usually a nobody or lowly detective/PI that gets in over the heads and tries to get to the bottom of the case, no matter the cost. That description is what Terriers is at heart. The show is not about flashy cops are super genius detectives, it is about two plucky PIs that are doing this work because they don’t know what else to do. When they stumble onto a giant real estate scam involving one of the town’s most beloved sons, they know the smart move is to run away, pretending that they know nothing. Yet, the do get involved in the case, no matter how big it is, no matter the warnings they hear from friends, co-workers and even enemies because of the character of Hank Dolworth, who is played wonderfully by Donal Logue.

This is the second way that Terriers is keeping the genre of noir strong, with characters that might have a checked past and might live in a shade of grey, but still, in the end, make you root for them. The character of Hank Dolworth has become a character for the ages in less than 10 episodes so far. Dolworth might be an ex-drunk and a disgraced ex-cop who pissed away everything he had; but he is also a guy who has hit rock bottom and is trying desperately to crawl out of the abyss he is in, not matter the sacrifice. The show throws horrible thing after tragic situation at Dolworth that would break most men, but he keeps on chugging along, with the new scars to show for it. He is also a very conflicted character because his heart is always in the right place and he genuinely wants to help people, but getting back what he has lost means stepping on people that get in his way. While he helps the helpless often, he is not always above doing some petty and downright awful things to get what he wants. Since he is a decent guy at heart, when he does these tasks that aren’t on the level, he can’t quite forgive himself for what he did. So by the time he has climbed out of the dark hole he has made for himself, will he like the man he has become?

While I love noir characters who live in a shade of grey where right and wrong is not always clear, the character of Dolworth would never work if it didn’t have the powerhouse performance of Logue behind it. Anyone that knows Logue as a comedian will be blown away by his performance in this show. He conveys emotion with little to no words at all and can be funny as hell one scene and go to very dark places the next. While Jon Hamm on Mad Men and Brian Cranston on Breaking Bad receive their well earned accolades, I believe what Logue is doing on Terriers is just as good, if not better. It is truly a performance you have to see to believe.

When you watch an episode of Terriers, much of the action takes place in the nice sunny locales of Southern California, and makes this beautiful breezy environment somehow seem sinister. Unlike many noirs that are bathed in shadows and darkness, Terries uses the bright sunlight to expose the underside of one of the most desired climate in America. The show, much like its spiritual sister, Veronica Mars, should be commended for being able to get the feel of a noir film while bathing the scenes in sunlight and picturesque backdrops.

The final aspect of noir that Terriers has down is the great writing and dialogue in the show. I can honestly say that I have no idea where the central arc of the show is going. When it started, I was thinking that it was going to be a Chinatown-lite type of deal, but there have been so many twists and turns that threw me off of where the story was heading and I love it. It is rare I am surprised by what a show is doing and Terriers is accomplishing the feat with ease. The show is also one of the most quotable shows out there right now, thanks to the chemistry and personality of the two leads, every line they utter somehow is brilliant. For example:

HANK: That dude plays sincere like nobody's business. I mean it does make me a little curious.
BRITT: Curiosity killed the cat, man.
HANK: I heard that cat had that shit coming to him.

(While staging a scene to make it look like a corpse in their possession died in a car accident)
BRITT: What station do you think he listens to?
HANK: Why does that matter?
BRITT: I'm trying to make it as realistic as possible.
HANK: Alright. So If you were on the run or your life, what would you listen to? I don't know. Uh… Smooth jazz?

(While doing this exact thing) HANK: You know what this reminds me of?  That time we had to climb down the ravine to the car we crashed with the dead guy inside.

HANK: It's modern technology making man obsolete. Happened to my old job.
MIRIAM: What'd you do?
HANK: I was a microwave oven.

Terriers suffers from a horrible name, an odd advertising campaign and a show that is a slow burn coming out in a right now type culture, but like many of the famous noirs, the greatness of the show might not be seen today, but in years down the line. I hope that a few more people get to watch and experience this show while it is on because there is nothing else on TV or at the movies that is like this. While it might only have a short TV life like that other great So. Cal. TV series Veronica Mars, I for one will be glad with how many ever episodes I get of the show. I also know after the DVD is out, I will go from friend to friend and browbeat them until the finally watch the show. Terriers is something any fan of noir or genre TV should watch, so why not start now?

Catch up on episodes online at fxnetworks.com or hulu.com and then watch the show on FX Wednesday nights at 10E/9C.

Posted by Ryan

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