Terriers, “Pilot”: God loves a terrier.

I can’t say that Terriers was the show I looking forward to most this Fall, but it was definitely a bright spot in a season that was’t shaping up to be terribly impressive. The show, in case you’re an idiot who couldn’t get it from FX’s incredibly straightforward and not-ambiguous ad campaign, is about two buddies, one an ex-cop, who work as unlicensed private investigators. Private dicks, as they’re called in the biz. In the pilot, the two are looking for an old friend’s missing daughter, which lands them in the middle of a murder investigation and has them running afoul of a powerful California real estate magnate.

All interesting stuff, and even though the promos made it look like a show about two guys who like sitting on steps looking grungy, I was still intrigued by the tone it was setting. Plus, it’s executive produced by Ted Griffin, who wrote Ocean’s 11, and Shawn Ryan, the creator of The Shield. To make things even better, the show is airing on FX, who seems to be playing in the AMC sandbox of developing a stable of good, quality shows.

But after having watched the pilot, I can’t say that I’m completely taken with it. The first half-hour is fantastic. Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James have great chemistry together. So much so you’d think that the show had already been around for a couple of years. It’s supporting cast also seems pretty strong. While Logue’s ex-wife and Raymond-James’ girlfriend kind of seem like stock characters who have blonde hair and are slightly unsure of themselves, I thought they turned in good performances. I do like Logue’s ex-partner, Mark Gustafson (played by Rockmond Dunbar). I know, he looks like he’s playing the bad cop here, but I feel like he’s breaking the mold somewhat. And I loved the bit about chewing on cigarette holders because it makes not smoking easier. Over time I think the cast is really going to work well together, once their storylines have a chance to develop and overlap a bit.

The best thing about the show, and what I felt was lacking in the second half, is the space Logue and Raymond-James are in. As unliscenced investigators, they can pretty much do whatever they can get away with. I realize this may not seem too different from the cop who DOESN’T play by the rules we’ve had shoved down out throats by networks like USA and TNT (damn you and your Emmy, Kyra Sedgwick!!), but in the case of these guys, who aren’t working in any official capacity, you get the feeling that certain ethical lines and standards don’t apply to them. And not only because they’re not cops, but because they don’t care.

I felt the show lost track of this toward the end of the pilot. After it becomes apparent that Lindus — the real estate magnate — and Logue are going to be butting heads, the show took a much more traditional approach to things, with Logue literally saying, “You killed my friend (spoiler alert), and now I’m going to destroy you.” The only way the scene could have gotten any more cliched was if it had taken place outside in the rain. I realize that this was only one scene in a story that’s probably going to burn slowly over the entire season, but I felt it was crucial and showed us that Logue and Raymond-James were probably going to be working much more within the bounds of traditional police work than maybe we were led to expect. Once it’s put together that Lindus isn’t exactly on the up and up, Logue goes to his ex-partner, telling him to follow the clues and make sure this guy is watched. It all felt much more procedural than I would have preferred, and took some of the quirkiness out of it.

Still, I am intrigued. The cast is enough to keep me coming back, if nothing else. And I see so much potential there that it’d be a shame to waste it on a story we’ve seen time and time again.

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