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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2010-2011 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
(written by Ted Griffin; directed by Craig Brewer; TRT: 51:05)
The network's description: "Terriers, from Creator/Executive Producer Ted Griffin (Ocean's Eleven) and Executive Producer Shawn Ryan (The Shield), is a comedic drama starring Donal Logue (The Tao of Steve, Damages) and Michael Raymond-James (True Blood). It centers on "Hank Dolworth" (Logue), an ex-cop who partners with his best friend "Britt Pollack" (Raymond-James) to launch an unlicensed private investigation business. The duo, both struggling with maturity issues, solve crimes while avoiding danger and responsibility. Craig Brewer (Hustle and Flow, The Shield) directed the pilot episode. Terriers is produced by Fox 21."
What did they leave out? There's a bulldog in the pilot, not a terrier.
The plot in a nutshell: Unlicensed private investigators Hank Dolworth (Donal Logue), a tenacious ex-cop/ex-drunk, and Britt Pollack (Michael Raymond James), his slightly-dim, Peter Pan-esque best friend, aren't exactly drowning in business. So if that means wasting their day to recover their dry cleaner's bulldog from her juicehead ex-husband, so be it (Britt: "Come on what else are we going to do today, cure cancer?" Hank: "Maybe."). A bigger "job" however comes along after Hank's own ex, Gretchen (Kimberly Quinn), stops by with news that Mickey (apologies as I didn't recognize the actor), one of his old drinking buddies, has gotten himself arrested. Even worse, she's put their house on the market, officially destroying the last vestige of their relationship.
In any case, Hank and Britt learn Mickey got pinched for drunk and disorderly conduct, not to mention carrying a gun, one which he was trying to bring to his daughter Eleanor, who's in some kind of trouble. The guys agree to look into it and quickly find her boss (again, apologies), a powerful real estate developer, is a little too helpful, going so far as to put them on retainer for their assistance in tracking her down. It seems before she disappeared she took something - which Britt muses is a sex tape - and he wants it back, something which he's willing to pay extra for if they return it to him.
And so the guys smile and take his money, fully realizing he's essentially just admitted he had something to do with her disappearance. Their investigation ultimately uncovers a dead body, a very panicked Eleanor and a video that suggests something much bigger is going on than your typical sex tape. Along the way we meet Hank's old partner, Mark (Rockmond Dunbar), who's been tasked with the aforementioned murder, and Britt's live-in girlfriend, Katie (Laura Allen), who's hoping he'll eventually grow up. And while most guys would just tuck tail and run at the consequences of pushing ahead, Hank and Britt - literally - have nothing to lose.
What works: It's just a wonderfully shaggy show in that Hank and Britt's unfettered smarts and determination see them succeed in ways most law enforcement officials can't or won't be bothered to. To that end, Logue and James are a lot of fun, whether it's teasing each other (Hank alternates between trying to get awful songs stuck in Britt's head and asking for loans for ridiculous items) or just bantering (Britt: "What are you doing to do with the money? Pay bills probably? I'm not going to do that. What are you going to do?" Hank: "Buy a new polo pony.") Together they're exceedingly clever, from Hank using the aforementioned dog to gain access to an upscale compound to Britt trading seemingly useless favors to land a nice night out with Katie.
Coupled with their perpetual underdog status (Gretchen, on Hank: "Your checks always bounce, your life bounces."; Katie, on Britt: "It's been really fun living in Never Never Land with you two but I gotta become a real person one of these days."), there's just an endearing vibe to the proceedings that's infectious. Here's two guys who have genuinely hit rock bottom and now they're trying to do better, despite their reckless tendencies. The central plot also proves to be far meatier than expected, especially since it raises the stakes which each new twist. All in all, it's another fine addition to FX's dramatic stable.
What doesn't: I can't finger anything substantive as it's just a solid, enjoyably plotted hour with amusingly flawed, multi-dimensional characters.
The bottom line: Keep your eyes open for this one.