Thursday, September 9, 2010

Terriers - "Pilot"

Britt (Michael Raymond-James) and Hank (Donal Logue) in 'Terriers'
Photo Credit: FX
Review by Paul Steven Brown

Season 1 - Episode 1

Terriers are that group of small dogs that were bred for digging into holes and chasing out foxes and vermin. They're scrappy and lovable, but like some little dogs, can get into big trouble.

The little person getting into a situation way over his or her head has been a recurring theme in movies and television. The Big Lebowski is a perfect example. The Dude is a victim of mistaken identity and his desire to have his rug replaced gets him involved in a crazy ransom scheme. Dignan in Bottle Rocket wants to be part of something big, but only has the ability to reach a certain level, like the tiny firework for which the film is named. Even Jake in Chinatown must deal with the fact that there are some things are just the way they are and there's nothing you can do to fix or even understand them. "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

FX's newest drama, 'Terriers', is another example of the little dog falling into the big dog world. However, Hank and Britt might be two little guys that really do have the potential to take down their more powerful adversaries. The pair are a team of unlicensed private investigators in San Diego, but they have the savvy and more importantly, the tenacity to get the job done, due to the personal nature of the situation.

Donal Logue ('Grounded for Life', The Tao of Steve)plays ex-cop and former alcoholic Hank Dolworth. His life is full of strained relationships. He's divorced, yet he and his ex-wife do have a cordial relationship, despite a mis-dated alimony check or two. Gretchen (Kimberly Quinn) has moved on and is selling their old house and is planning to marry someone else. Hank hasn't gotten that far, to the point that he puts a downpayment on the house. Hank is still in contact with his former partner on the force, Mark Gustafson, but there's no love loss there. The one person that he can count on is his partner Britt.

In another life, Britt Pollack (Michael Raymond-James, who played Rene on 'True Blood') was probably a con man. He's got the charm and the swagger to draw out information from people, but also the smarts to cut to the chase and knows when the direct approach is better than lying. Britt's romantic life is faring better than Hank's, but it's not without it's own speed bumps. Katie (Laura Allen, who played Lily on 'The 4400') wants to have a baby, but Britt isn't ready yet. He does sweetly make an effort to change his outlook when he suggests they get a dog as a sort of "starter child". This could still be avoidance, but Raymond-James is so good looking and charming, that anyone would fall for it.

The chemistry between Logue and Raymond-James is outstanding. The two even shared a house during the filming of the series which really translates on the screen as two guys that get each other. Hank and Britt, are too close to their respective romantic relationships, but can call out each other's bullshit. Hank seems particularly close to Katie and is more than willing to talk to Britt for her about the baby (or lack of) situation. Britt automatically cries foul when Hank uses a check written out to them as a downpayment on Gretchen's house.

Hank and Britt's troubles escalate when one of Hank's old drinking buddies needs their help in finding his wayward daughter. What starts out as a simple delivery of cash, explodes into a situation involving a dead body in a lifeguard shack, a sex tape, and a shady development deal. Things really come to a head when the former drinking buddy is found dead due to an apparent heroine overdose, though Hanks points out that he would never use the stuff. All signs point to wealthy developer who Hank has no problems with confronting.

The pilot episode does an excellent job of establishing the principal players and the environment of 'Terriers'. It also helps that FX gave the episode an additional twelve minutes to breath. A full extra hour would have been too much, but this way events don't seem crammed into the box of a one hour show or bloated to two. The story is resolved in the first episode, but there are plenty of directions that the situation with the developer is not over. We leave the pilot feeling that Hank and Britt have just entered a bigger and potentially dangerous world. It's a good start and premise for a series, which is even more helped the great cast.

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