Looking back on the brilliant-but-canceled ‘Terriers’ five years later

Five years ago tonight, FX gave us “Terriers,” a wonderful show with a terrible name and and a frustrating difficulty at breaking through the clutter even in the years before we hit Peak TV in America: there was no real way to sell it except to tell people they had to watch it. Every aspect of the show sounded done to death: detective show, buddy show, one's a recovering alcoholic, one's a reformed thief, they don't get no respect, blah blah blah blah blah.

None of the ideas were special, but the execution was, particularly in the chemistry between those two buddies, played by Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James. And even that worked in such a sly, low-key way that even if FX had done nothing but run promos of the two of them bantering, it wouldn't have entirely come across. No, you had to watch it to get it, and unfortunately, almost nobody did, whether they thought it was a show about dog-fighting or not.

Fortunately, 13 episodes were made, they expertly told a noir story over the 13 episodes, and they ended in a place that was meant to be a cliffhanger for a second season, but which works as the perfect ending for this strange and marvelous drama. And they're all streaming on Netflix.

On this fifth anniversary of that premiere, it feels appropriate that the show's creator, Ted Griffin, and its executive producer, Shawn Ryan, are reunited, with Griffin in Puerto Rico preparing to direct an episode of Ryan's upcoming Amazon show “Mad Dogs.” I reached out to Griffin to ask him what he thought Hank and Britt would be up to five years after we last saw them.

He wrote back to say, simply, “They”re happy.  They may not think it but they are.”

Then he added, “Five years later, I still have not been able to think of a title that works.  'Beach Noir'?  'Dolworth & Pollack, PI'?  'Our Brand Is Competence'?”

During the three glorious months of the show's existence, I wrote a lot about it, including reviews of each episode, a (failed) plea to FX to keep the show around in spite of its abysmal ratings, thoughts from FX's John Landgraf on why the show didn't find an audience, and a post-mortem interview with Griffin.

I don't know about you, but I'll be spending a good chunk of day with the show's theme song, “Gunfight Epiphany” by Rob Duncan, playing on a loop (possibly alternating it with the show's opening scene dubbed into Italian) while I start writing about new fall shows I hope I'll one day think back half as fondly as I do about “Terriers.”