Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The best fall TV show almost noone's watching: FX's "Terriers"

OK, OK, I know this is supposed to be about movies, but when you're in a week so bad that we only have one new movie, "Saw 3D," that's justifiably terrified of critics, I think it's alright to change the subject for just a bit.

Now, I suppose there may be a good TV or show this fall that I've simply missed, but contrary to what many of my co-workers probably think, I don't simply watch everything on TV. That said, however, I did try to sample as much as possible of the new offerings this fall,and they seem to be pretty universally awful.

We did have a brief respite starting Sunday with PBS' "Sherlock," but that will only last for two more weeks, at least in this incarnation. The Masterpiece Mystery offering starring Benedict Cumberbatch (yes, really) and Martin Freeman as, respectively, Holmes and Watson, transports the tale into modern London but, despite the distraction of way too much texting, manages to nail the wit and wisdom of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creation a whole lot better than the recent movie did.

After that ends, though, what will we be left with? HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," which has six more episodes left in its first season, has garnered many much-deserved plaudits, but there's one other show this year that's edging up to greatness in the shadows, FX's "Terriers."

Though I do occasionally get recognized around town because of the version of this I write for the Macon Telegraph, mostly and not terribly oddly at the video store or Macon's only movie theater, I rarely get any e-mail about it. I did, however, receive an interesting one the other day from Danny Elliott of Warner Robins, who implored me to talk about this very-little-watched FX series (the premiere drew only a rather paltry 1.6 million viewers), so that's what I'm going to do.

For the many people who have managed to miss this show, which airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m., it's about two guys, one a former cop and one a former thief, who have now joined forces as unlicensed and often unscrupulous private detectives. The leads are played by Donal Logue, who may be known to TV viewers as the star of the sitcom "Grounded for Life," and Michael Raymond-James, who fans of HBO's "True Blood" will recognize from season one as the vampire killer Rene.

The two of them, Logue the former cop and Raymond-James the former thief, find a natural chemistry as they now meet in the middle. It's often very funny, but never dives into by-the-book buddy sitcom-style comedy.

And the cases they take on, starting with a doozie in the pilot involving a major land developer who has at least some part to do with multiple murders - including that of one of Logue's former drinking buddies - are uniformly interesting from week to week. The best so far, episode three, starred Olivia Williams as the wife of a bank manager who may or may not be having an affair. As the bank manager tasked Logue's Hank to find out the truth, it just kept getting more and more twisted in the hard-boiled kind of way that TV mysteries so rarely still delve into nowadays.

Like another recent FX offering, "Justified," which returns for season two in February, "Terriers" develops in a sometimes slow but always natural groove, and as it does, it just gets better as we meet the characters who populate the main duo's lives, particularly Logue's sister on the show, Steph, played by his actual sister, Karina Logue. On the show, she's a manic depressive who depends on her brother for survival, and it's a fascinating relationship to watch unfold.

The bottom line: If you like good, old-fashioned TV mysteries with a scruffy edge, tune in for FX's "Terriers" while you still can. The beauty of being on FX rather than a major network is that it's guaranteed a full, 13-episode season one run, which means five more episodes, even if this is the only season. Not many people watch this show, but I know at least Danny Elliott and I do, and many more other people should too.


jeremy said...

Always looking for something else to while away the hours here at work (I'm on Season 10 of Stargate sg-1, now). Hour long dramas are my favorites. If you haven't watched Sanctuary, that's a show that has actually kinda grown on me, and I also recommend Fringe which started out rocky but is now quite solid.

Reel Fanatic said...

I soured pretty quickly on the beginning of "Fringe," Jeremy, but you're not the first person to tell me it got better, so I should definitely go back and give it a second chance, assuming I just wouldn't be beyond lost by now ... And I'd never heard of "Sanctuary," but like you, I'm always looking for entertaining "time wasters," so I'll check it out

Jake Mabe said...

"Sherlock" is simply outstanding.

Thought I was going to hate it and couldn't quit saying "damn, this is good" while watching the first episode. Too bad it's not on weekly. Gonna be a LONG wait until the next batch.

"Friday Night Lights" is back for one last season. Judging from episode one, it should be another good year for an underrated gem.

Reel Fanatic said...

I hope it goes out on a high note, Jake ... Unfortunately, I won't be able to watch it until it hits NBC in the Spring, and I already can't wait ... And except for the fact that the first story was more than a bit silly, I'm completely with you on "Sherlock" .. Hopefully PBS will speed us some more rather than making us wait too long

Nell Minow said...

I'm glad to hear what you have to say about this show -- I heard of it for the first time just this week on the Slate culture gabfest and immediately saved a couple of episodes on Hulu so I can watch them later. They compared it to "The Rockford Files," and if it is half as good, I will enjoy it for sure. I've been a big fan of Donal Logue since "The Tao of Steve." His commentary on the DVD of that film is also delightful.

Reel Fanatic said...

I wouldn't put it on quite that high a pedestal, Nell, but the chemistry of the two leads and the interesting stories do definitely put it a cut above the rest of this fall's offerings