It’s an unfortunate fact that often the most creative, highest-quality shows on TV struggle to find enough viewers to survive. That’s what’s happening right now with FX’s new private-eye series, “Terriers.” It’s hands-down the best new series of the fall, yet no one’s watching. That has to change — come on people, don’t let this be one of those shows you discover on DVD a year from now and go “Huh, this is great, why didn’t I watch this back before it got canceled?”
Cancellation is where “Terriers” is headed unless it can show improvement in the ratings by season’s end. The season’s half over, so that means the next six weeks or so are do-or-die time. Here then, are five reasons why you should tune in at 10 p.m. tonight on FX.
5. You won’t be lost. “Terriers” isn’t nearly as serialized as FX’s other shows, so it’s easy to step right in. Yeah, there’s a continuing, over-arcing storyline with the characters’ personal lives, but it’s mainly a mystery-of-the-week sort of thing. It’s not like missing the first six episodes of “Lost.” FX also reruns previous episodes, and they’re all available on Hulu too. Start watching now and catch up later. It’s doable.
4. It’s got the best chemistry on TV. The breezy banter between stars Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James make it seem like the cameras are following a couple of best friends. There’s a reason for that: They pretty much are. The two shared a beach house during filming, a serious bromance developed, and now they’re sharing a bus on a cross-country road trip promoting the show. There’s a real spark between these two, a natural rapport that makes their likable characters even more likable. USA may use “Characters welcome” as their tagline, but this is a series that really embraces that concept. (And if the names don’t ring a bell, Logue’s the red-headed dude from the old MTV commercials, the movie “The Tao of Steve,” and the TV show “Grounded for Life.” Raymond-James was Rene on Season 1 of “True Blood.”)
3. It’s not about dogs. A lot of folks — cast members included — are blaming the poor ratings on the show’s title. Apparently “Terriers” makes people think it’s a reality show about dog fighting or something. But come on, viewers are smarter than that. Did everyone think “30 Rock” was about a bunch of rocks? Had anyone ever heard of a “Mentalist”? Do people think “Nikita” is documentary about a former Soviet leader? Look, it’s a wry mystery in the vein of “The Rockford Files” about a pair of low-rent private eyes living in a beach town near San Diego. It’s called “Terriers” because they’re scruffy, scrappy underdogs who won’t give up on a case. The title’s no reason to be scared off.
2. It’s smart. The private-eye genre is well-worn, yet “Terriers” manages to stay fresh even with plots that could have come out of a 60-year-old Raymond Chandler novel. How do they do it? Credit a sense of cleverness and originality instilled by the creators, Shawn Ryan (who reinvented the cop drama with “The Shield”) and Ted Griffin (who modernized the classic caper movie with “Ocean’s 11”). On its face, it’s a crime procedural, but “Terriers” manages to offer something much deeper than the average network procedural, and it’s a whole lot more interesting. The writing isn’t dumbed down — the viewer might have to expend a few brain cells connecting the plot dots — and there’s a sense of realness that’s rare in TV. The dialogue sounds like real people talking, and there’s a evenhanded dose of humor, drama and mystery. Things even get emotionally moving once in a while. Kinda like life.
1. It’s a whole lot of fun. It’s the fastest hour on TV. “Terriers” is so enjoyable, so easy to take in, that the minutes fly by and leave me smiling, wanting more. That’s all anyone can ask of a TV show. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you probably trust my taste in TV at least somewhat. Trust me on this: Watch “Terriers” tonight. You won’t regret it. (Probably.)
Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/thatwarmglow.