|Terriers (on FX)|
For Shady Kanfi
For the most part, the FX Network was good to me in 2010. By mid-summer, they had already premiered three of my favourite new series of the year: in comedy, the hilarious and deeply original Louis C.K. vehicle, Louie; in animation, the surprisingly funny, edgy, and intelligent spy spoof, Archer; and in drama, the hard-boiled contemporary Western, Justified, based on the work of Elmore Leonard and starring Timothy Olyphant. (All three shows have been renewed and will bring us second seasons in 2011.) But the folks at FX weren’t done yet: on September 8th, they premiered Terriers. Created by screenwriter Ted Griffin (Ocean's Eleven) and The Shield creator Shawn Ryan, Terriers stars Donal Logue (Life, Grounded for Life) as Hank Dolworth, an ex-cop and recovering alcoholic, who teams up with Britt Pollack, his best friend and mostly reformed thief (played by Michael Raymond-James, True Blood), to open an unlicensed private investigation firm. Based on the early promos for the series, I had initially positioned the series in relation to The Good Guys, the good-natured buddy-cop show created by Matt Nix (Burn Notice), which premiered on FOX over the summer (and was cancelled last month). But halfway through the opening credits of Terriers (and the original theme song written by the show’s composer Rob Duncan), I knew I was going to be delightfully mistaken. With substantial characters and two charismatic stars, some powerful writing and subtle serial nature, Terriers would soon rise to the level of FX’s spring season hit, Justified. While often hilarious, the show was also carefully plotted, and offered a perfect mix of compelling characters, dark humour, and genuine intrigue. Unfortunately, by early December, FX announced that due to low ratings it was not going to renew Terriers. But whatever its future, Terriers will remain one of the few bright spots in what was an often disappointing new fall TV season.
|Donal Logue (front) and Michael Raymond-James|
|Karina and Donal Logue as Steph and Hank Dolworth|
The humanity of the characters and their relations is also reflected in the intimacy of the setting and locations—their bar, their regular diner, the front seat of their truck. Britt’s underworld contacts and Hank’s old networks of addicts, informers, and broken men are invariably nearby, somewhere along the boardwalk, rarely more than a 5-minute walk away. San Diego may be California’s second-largest city, but Terriers nestles itself tightly into the largely self-contained community of Ocean Beach, which quickly becomes a character unto itself.
|A scene from Justified|
While the final episode, directed by Ted Griffin and co-written by him and his brother Nicholas, tied up most loose ends, it leaves us longing for more time with these flawed, beautiful people. “You’re remarkable in a funny way. Or funny in a remarkable way,” one character says of Hank near the closing of the last episode. This really could be said of the series as a whole. It was a remarkable journey, one that had few, if any, missteps. Always fun, often heartbreaking, Terriers is simply a great show.
|Laura Allen as Katie|
In light of the news of Terriers’ cancellation, consider this review as a late edition to my brilliant-but-cancelled post of a few months ago. We won’t be getting any new episodes, but we’ve got these 13 amazing hours of television, and that’s something we can all be grateful for.
POSTSCRIPT: On December 18th, I lost one of my dearest and oldest friends. Shady Kanfi passed away just 9 days short of his 40th birthday. We’d been friends for almost 25 years. My thinking and writing about TV have long been reflections and extensions of conversations with friends—and more than their share have come from conversations with Shady and his wife Inés, a person who I am grateful to continue to count among my closest friends. When I began to speak and write publicly about TV and media, the two of them were my biggest supporters. Shady and Inés both shared my love for great television and in many ways, I’ve been writing for them for a long time now. I found out recently that Terriers was one of the last shows that Shady had watched in its entirety. Appropriately, it is at its heart a story about real friendship—true, deep, and complicated. For me, the very best thing about great television is that it generates conversation. Along with the respect, love, and support I received from Shady over the years, I know that I will miss those conversations the most. My world has become significantly smaller since he’s been gone. Every time I find out about a new show or watch a particularly great episode of a show we both loved, I will feel the loss—already too deep to express—even the more. I dedicate this piece—and each one I will write from now on—to Shady.
-- Mark Clamen is a lifelong television enthusiast. He lives in Toronto, where he often lectures on television, film, and popular culture. On Monday February 28th at 7pm, Mark is speaking at the Miles Nadal JCC in Toronto on The Wire: Tales of a Broken City.