Why Terriers should be your next box set
Brendon Connelly | On 31, May 2021
Some might say that contemporary culture is written on ticker tape that it scrolls quickly by, keeping our attention focused on the moment we’re in, before it ends up tangled and spooled in some bin or another. At VODzilla.co, we see things differently. VOD is the medium where the past is just a few button-presses away, where anything from a silent movie to a mid-60s countercultural classic might cross your mind one moment then light up your screen just a few seconds later.
Whole archives of old movies and TV shows are readily available for generations of new audiences. There are many outstanding films and series that were once cruelly overlooked and are now right there, on our communal, virtual shelf, just waiting for somebody to take a chance. Guiding curious eyes around these shelves is VODzilla.co’s mission. And if we can encourage you to take a chance on Terriers, we’ll have tackled our mission well.
The premise of Terriers is well-worn: two detectives, living with the fallout of some extremely poor life choices, cleverly crack tricksy cases and chase down terrible bad guys. Not to knock this sub-genre, but such a simple description falls far short of doing Terriers justice.
It helps just a little to note the mixture of a sun-bleached San Diego setting and neo-noir vibe, although this doesn’t set it too far aside from, say, The Rockford Files or Jackie Brown. What makes Terriers truly special is the brilliance of its execution. This is TV made with love, imagination and intelligence throughout. Shorthand for the calibre of craft on display is the pub quiz factoid that the fifth episode gave both Knives Out’s Rian Johnson and Russian Doll’s Leslye Headland their first TV credits.
The show was created by Ted Griffin, the screenwriter of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven remake and architect of the clever, twisty plots of movies such as Tower Heist and Matchstick Men. Among his collaborators on the show were Firefly’s Tim Minear and The Shield’s Shawn Ryan, and The Last Seduction’s John Dahl directed an episode. The creative team behind Terriers was a genuine TV brain trust.
The protagonist is Hank Dolworth, played by Donal Logue with his characteristic mixture of the unkempt and unflappable. We quickly learn a lot about what Hank has been in the past – a cop, an alcoholic and a disappointingly bad husband – but almost as soon, we care more about what he’s trying to be now. His partner Britt, played by True Blood stand-out Michael Raymond-James, has a similarly regrettable history. Specifically, he’s been a crook, which gives him some handy skills and the right moral elasticity, to be a very good unlicensed private eye – but also means there are some skeletons in his closet that will, sooner or later, step out and rattle their bones.
This whole set-up allows for a seamless integration between the episodic and ongoing mysteries that the show delivers and the personal lives of our lead characters and their loved ones. It’s a perfect blend, really, and you never feel a gear change between different plot strands. Terriers succeeds in telling one big story and not keeping its character drama distinct from its thrills and investigations.
Some of the 13 episodes have truly excellent plots but all have excellent plotting, with even the less dazzlingly clever stories delivered with moment-to-moment flair. Every episode is funny, too, and most pack some real emotional punch.
So why isn’t it one of the most famous TV shows of the modern age? Indeed, Terriers was said to have been the lowest rated drama in FX’s history and was quickly cancelled. Surely it wasn’t just the off-target choice of title?
Things are likely to have been very different had audiences given the show just one episode’s worth of a chance. We hear “watch the first four episodes and then you’ll be hooked” too often, not to mention “it gets good in Season 3”, but Terriers will tell you within the first 45 minutes if this is a show for you. There’s no show that everybody is going to like – how is that even possible? – but we’re prepared to bet that if you kept reading beyond “sun-bleached” and “neo-noir”, you’re going to join us in the Terriers fan club.
Terriers is available on Disney+ UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.