Terriers are hunting dogs. They are the small, energetic, charismatic, shaggy pups that were originally used by hunters to drive out any hidden or underground game that might be about.
Hank Dolworth and Britt Pollack, FX’s lead “bromance” duo, are not so different from those active little dogs themselves. Once these two are on the scent of a case, they won’t stop following the trail until they’ve collected the reward.
“Terriers,” one of FX’s new shows this fall, follows the unlikely private investigation team of the ex-cop Hank (Donal Logue) and the ex-thief Britt (Michael Raymond-James). Created by Ted Griffin and supported by a creative team including co-showrunner Shawn Ryan and executive producer Tim Minear, “Terriers” is anything but your typical procedural drama. Despite slow ratings, the small cable show finds itself entering November sweeps as a fall season breakout series. And after watching just four episodes, it’s not hard to see why.
Set in Ocean Beach, Calif. — the opposite of a glamorous coast-side city — this run-down, washed out town in San Diego sets the tone, style and voice of the show from the moment we open to Hank and Britt working a job in a junky pick-up truck. Not quite the high-tech P.I. operation audiences may have come to expect from television these days. They aren’t geniuses, they aren’t that bright and they aren’t even certified.
What Hank and Britt do have going for them is resourcefulness, good friends in low places, and the ability to cheat without getting caught. Hank still uses his old contacts at the police department despite having lost his badge due to alcoholism and Britt uses his breaking and entering skills from a past life of thievery. Together, along with a taste for revenge and a whole lot of persistence, the two prove that you don’t need a badge to stop the bad guys.
A lot of the characters’ success is thanks to the flawless chemistry between Louge and Raymond-James. Everything about their friendship and partnership is natural — from knowing one another’s bad habits to finishing each other’s sentences. They make bad jokes while trespassing onto property and sing in the car while on stakeouts. The only character Britt might get along with better is Winston, a lovable bulldog he adopts a few episodes in.
And while I would be fine just watching Hank and Britt ride around in a pick-up truck solving crime for an hour every week, there is a lot more that “Terriers” has going for it. Hank’s refusal to accept his divorce as final and his self-destructive actions become a driving force behind his decision making, even in smaller cases, giving what would be a light and easy show, a darker and deeper feel. Detective Mark Gustafson (Rockmond Dunbar), Hank’s ex-partner during his cop days, seems to show up at the most inconvenient times. But that doesn’t stop Hank from smirking every time he beats Gustafson to the punch on a case.
Characters might be the driving force of the show, but the writers have done an excellent job of finding a balance between the serialized arc stories and episodic plots. The stakes are higher and the consequences are larger, but the character depth is what brings individualized episodes into another level of appreciation.
There is no lack of procedural dramas on television right now. House and Wilson banter on Monday nights while working on the diagnosis of the week in “House.” Bones and Booth dig up skeletons and catch the big bads every Thursday on “Bones.” But none of them have quite the essence of cool that “Terriers” has been able to achieve. These two guys are just two orphaned puppies looking to pass each day with a few extra bucks. And who doesn’t love spending time with man’s best friend?
“Terriers” airs on Wednesdays on FX at 10 p.m.
Rosenberg is a member of the class of 2012.