Terriers | Is There Still Some Fight In This Dead Dog?

Terriers, the brilliantly written and acted television series starring Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James as a pair of unlicensed private investigators, is no more, having been put down by FX executives earlier this month after only one season. It’s not hard to understand why the plug was pulled: Terriers debuted to horrific ratings that only got worse with each passing episode, with only 784,000 viewers tuning in for the unplanned series finale. Even on cable, those ratings just won’t cut it.

That’s not to say that Terriers needed to die, of course. FX executives have downplayed the atrocious marketing and promotion as reasons for the show’s demise, despite the fact that the title Terriers and the various posters featuring a snarling dog had absolutely nothing to do with the actual series itself. With a better promotion plan and a more show-accurate title, perhaps Terriers could have been saved — indeed, perhaps there’s still hope.

Despite the fact that it’s already been canceled, we sincerely believe that Terriers isn’t a lost cause. With a few tweaks and adjustments here and there, the show could easily make a comeback and secure a much larger following than its initial viewership. We’re not so deluded as to think that our suggestions are going to make the defining difference, but for the sake of argument, here are a few ways that FX could bring Terriers back from beyond the brink. After all, it’s happened before, from Family Guy to Roswell to Cagney and Lacey, just to name a few resurrected series that went on to further success.

What’s In A Name?

The simplest answer is renaming and relaunching Terriers. While it’s not a terrible name for a series in and of itself, the title Terriers had less than nothing to do with the actual show. The name could have been given some meaning in the pilot episode, which centered on the rescue of a dog — but a bulldog, not a terrier. In many respects, Terriers was doomed right off the bat with its nonsensical title.

On the other hand, a title like, say, Ocean Beach would have worked beautifully. As the show’s primary location, Ocean Beach is the turf that investigators and best pals Hank Dolworth and Britt Pollock spent the entire first season defending from greedy lawyers, ruthless hitmen and other assorted mysterious parties. Take the focus off of the so-called “terriers” and put it on the homeland they’re sworn to protect: it would open up the world of Terriers to all-new characters and neighborhoods that would only serve to further fuel the show.

Readying For Relaunch

Renaming Terriers as Ocean Beach is easy enough, but what’s the next step? Should FX turn the series right around and put it back on the airwaves? Probably not — not without testing the waters, at least, to make sure that there are enough people interested in giving the show another chance.

One possibility is offering a limited relaunch as a six-episode miniseries. The result is essentially an extended telemovie — which itself isn’t a bad idea — providing minimal risk for the folks at FX and, if nothing else, creative resolution for the people involved with the series both in front of the camera, behind it and those of us watching at home. Approach the miniseries with the goal of providing closure for fans of these characters while making the story accessible to new viewers. Promote it as an all-new concept for those that weren’t already on the Terriers bandwagon but make certain the characters are figured prominently in the ads so the existing audience doesn’t get left behind. In the end, a Terriers miniseries (or telemovie) would either result in a fitting and specifically constructed ending for the series ala the Jericho extension, or it may lure enough viewers to justify the relaunch of an ongoing series.

Crossover Potential

An even safer way to restore Terriers to its rightful place on television would be to look at some of the more successful shows that are already airing on FX — like Sons of Anarchy, for example. Sons, which is already FX’s biggest ratings winner of all time, is the perfect place to reinsert Hank and Britt into the popular consciousness. Those characters would fit beautifully in the small but corrupt town of Charming, California, just a day’s drive up the coast from their Ocean Beach headquarters. Imagine, if you will, that the members of SAMCRO run into some trouble that requires outside assistance, leading Jax Teller to call on Britt, who he knows from Britt’s days as a thief, for a helping hand. Sick the “terriers” on the Mayans, the Nords or some other new club for maybe two or three episodes, and fans will be begging for more from the Ocean Beach gang.

Another alternative is thrusting Hank and Britt onto U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens’ path. Justified could be a great place to jump-start Terriers by simply having Givens traveling out west to Ocean Beach to track down a fugitive, leading to a full scale team-up with the unlicensed private investigators. Not only would it be fun to see Givens in a new environment, but his tendency to have criminals end up dead could provide the perfect open plot point to relaunch our duo into their new series.

Musical Therapy

In case you didn’t notice — which is likely, if you were one of the poor fools who didn’t tune into Terriers in the first place — this series had one of the single greatest opening theme songs of all time in the form of “Gunfight Epiphany” by Robert Duncan. The tune simply exudes relaxing beach vibes, while the lyrics speak towards the greater conflict at the heart of Terriers. Get that song on the radio, offer it as a free download on iTunes or release through some other promotional means — it doesn’t matter how it’s unleashed, just unleash it. Once the masses have soaked in their fair share of “Gunfight Epiphany,” they’ll be wondering where the track came from in the first place… leading directly back to Terriers, naturally.

Harness the Fanbase

One undeniable fact is that the series’ fanbase, while small, has proven to be incredibly loyal. FX could have done far worse than to have made an attempt at harnessing the energy found online, creating inexpensive yet potentially large viral marketing campaigns. Announce a YouTube-based “Create a Commercial” contest, or encourage fans to submit their concepts for Ocean Beach travel posters — the show may not have the cosplay potential of a Firefly, but there’s no reason why the network couldn’t engage the fans in some sort of low cost, creative promotion.

So there you have it: five potential ways in which to get the further adventures of Hank and Britt on the air and, hopefully, grow the audience. In the end, while we’re not crazy enough to actually believe FX brass will sit up, take note and announce a change of heart in the trades next week, shows as good as Terriers simply don’t come along every day — and when they do, we feel it’s worth it to sit back and figure out a potential rescue strategy, even if the ratings simply aren’t there. If nothing else, the next time a critically acclaimed series with ratings that just aren’t cutting it comes along, perhaps those in charge of drumming up viewers could take a note at what didn’t happen with Terriers and try to avoid the same pitfalls.

CBR Senior Editor Stephen Gerding co-wrote this story.

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Comments

  • http://twitter.com/YetiMoose Mark Cronan

    FX went to great lengths to explain the cancellation, and how the show’s poor performance simply cannot be laid entirely at some outside cause like marketing:

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/showtracker/2010/12/fx-explains-why-terriers-was-canceled.html

    In fact, I cannot remember a time when a network went to such lengths to explain their reasoning.

    There is no prayer for Terriers. None. Not even one in a billion.

  • JohnLees

    I don’t think the title is all that bad. “Terriers” is a great thematic fit for the show, and though here in the UK I’ve yet to see a single episode of the series, it was the title that instantly caught my eye and I very quickly got a sense of what it was supposed to mean. It’s obviously a reference to the tenacious, determined nature of the PIs, and an allusion to them fighting against bigger and more powerful forces than themselves in a manner that isn’t quite so on-the-nose as “Underdogs”.

    When people blame the title of the show, and suggest viewers thought it was a show about dogs, it makes me sad for American audiences. It’s the same mindset that forced filmmakers to change the name of “The Madness of George III” to “The Madness of King George”, in case American filmgoers thought it was a sequel.

  • Rick69g

    Some great ideas, assuming you could get the various creators on board, but unfortunately, I just don’t think that FX would put that much thought and effort into re-launching the show. Besides, Justified is probably all filmed, or nearly anyway, for this coming season. And if you wait for Sons to come back next year, it means all the Terriers actors are waiting around for a year just waiting to find out if the revival happens. Then the movie/miniseries has to be first written leading to an even longer delay. By the time the show returned, the Sons and Justified fans would have forgotten about them. The show would need to be approved first so it can be worked on while the other shows are airing and then launch right afterwards. Despite my negative comments, I would love to see this great show come back

  • Gary

    I downloaded Gunfight Epiphany on iTunes a few weeks ago. Great song. Will definitely miss this series.

  • demoncat_4

    was going to say Terriers could wind up doing a family guy or a futerama if fx or another network would only decide to give the thing another chance. even retooling. after all it worked for family guy and Futurama, any thing is possible in tv

  • guest

    Even before the cancellation, I’d been thinking about how much fun a Justified/Terriers crossover could be…

  • Lando

    Just put on the show on Adult Swim, thats how all dead shows return from the grave.

  • Bill Reed

    Terriers turned out to be a fantastic title for the series, though potentially off-putting/confusing at first.

    “Ocean Beach” is not much better, honestly; it makes me think of The OC.

  • maeby

    Why not sell the rights to another network, ala the Southland NBC-to-TNT move?

  • GrrAargh

    ‘Terriers’ didn’t mean nothing, it was very apt as a title, though not particularly obvious before you watched the show. Ocean Beach would be much worse, it says nothing about the show other than where it’s set!

  • Auditor0007

    The problem wasn’t the name of the show. The problem was that by the time anybody knew about it, the season was half over. Advertising for this show was horrible to say the least. And because the storyline was an ongoing one, if you missed the first few episodes, then you were kind of lost.

    Series that have self-contained episodes are much easier to step in on at any given time, but when the show moves on from episode to episode, showing the viewer glimpses of past episodes just doesn’t do the trick. So in order for this type of series to be successful, it must start off with a large viewership. In this case, FX did Terriers no favors with a terrible initial advertising campaign.

  • anna lee

    All your suggestions are good…
    Personally, I don’t care how they do it – just get my favorite show back on T.V.