Friday, October 22, 2010

The Best Show You Can't See On Canadian TV


For a while I prayed that some network executive in Canada would buy the Canadian broadcast rights for the new FX series "Terriers". Because it exemplifies everything I've always believed about how you make the kind of good television we're capable of creating here.

You can make it cheap. You don't need big stars. You can take chances. You don't need to swing for the fences to be successful. If it's honest and it's well done, you'll find your audience, get the critics on your side and still make something that you can point to with pride.

"Terriers", created by "Ocean's Eleven" writer Ted Griffin and Executive Produced by Shawn ("The Shield") Ryan, is also run the way a TV series needs to be run. Creative first. Best idea wins. Egos left well outside the door.

Lawyers and money guys -- this is what we're doing, please just find a way to keep the lights on and our asses out of jail.

For a primer in how all that works, avail yourself of one brimming with insight podcast here.

Then I started wondering if the reason nobody was broadcasting "Terriers" here was because of how badly much of what has been debuted or renewed for the current Canadian TV season would appear when compared with what it offers.

There are folks insisting they've created the new "Rockford Files" who might discover they've not only been vastly out-Rockford-ed but that you don't need to club an audience into submission the same way you do a baby seal.

There are those who till the fields of "dark brooding underbelly" and "kinky urban relationships" who'd be shocked at how dark and kinked the human animal can actually become and how such story-telling can still be achieved with taste and humor.

Ultimately, I don't know why "Terriers" is not yet available to Canadian TV viewers. I just know it should be. Because it is head and shoulders above anything else in the current procedural genre.

Tagged with a title taken from street slang for an LA private eye, "Terriers" follows the course first charted by Dashiell Hammett, "Down these mean streets, walks a man who is not himself mean…".

Its lead character Hank Dolworth, played by Canadian born actor Donal Logue, is a man who has been broken by Life but hasn't given up despite how often his demons have made him give in.

Partnered with former (?) thief Britt Pollack (Michael Raymond-James) Dolworth is now an unlicensed private investigator in a California beach town. Their cases are what you'd expect their cases to be if you've read any of the vast "LA Noir" oeuvre that includes everybody from Philip Marlowe to J.J. Gites.

This is the kind of stuff that made Elmore Leonard and James Elroy famous but now probably has both of them chewing at their typing fingers wondering how they never managed to craft the plot twists and unexpected character turns which occur in almost every scene of "Terriers".

This is television created in an utterly fearless fashion. One recent climax turned on an off-color reference bereft of profanity but in the circumstances so shocking, I not only wondered how it had gotten past "Standards and Practices" but had even been uttered in the traditionally no-holds-barred atmosphere of a writers room.

In a season lacking in hits and ruled by a surrender mentality in which series with plummeting ratings are given full orders, somebody here has to bite the bullet, finally believe in what made them go into television in the first place and get this show to a Canadian audience.

Failing that, they give even more of their viewers an excuse to break Geo-locks or find torrent streams in order to be thoroughly entertained. If our networks want these people back on the couch, they're going to need to let the dogs get up there too.


Lioness said...

I've been hearing nothing but good things about this show and keep hoping some Cdn station picks it up. Sigh.

C. said...

Given how Super Channel picks up a lot of neglected basic-cable shows (Sons of Anarchy, Men of a Certain Age, Justified and The Closer, among others), I assume Terriers will eventually air on SC...although airing on Super Channel is like not airing on Canadian TV at all. For lack of a better term, SC is a quality pit.

It amazes me how so many well-regarded American shows aren't even touched by Canadian broadcasters, or seen on obscure channels. For instance, The Venture Bros., which is still fairly original in its fourth season, airs on G4, along with a fair chunk of the [adult swim] shows.

I don't get it. How many Canadians know about [as] essentially moving to G4 from Teletoon? What about the return of Futurama, which no Canadian channel has touched as of yet? I don't expect a date-and-time simulcast for all American shows coming to Canada, but some great American shows have little-to-no representation here. The problem's not limited to Terriers.

Alex Epstein said...

Okay, I'm springing for the $2.99 on iTunes.

win said...

Hey Jim
Love your perspective on cancon and the linesniffen execs.

Your audience may want to sashay down to and look under the teevee menu to find it - no torrents or geolocks.

just 7 amazing epps.

win said...

I agree. Support the creators.

Couldn't find it in the Canadian iTunes store.