Goodbye, "Terriers"

12/07/2010 06:00 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Terriers, which lasted exactly one season on FX, was the best network series to debut this fall, and I and its apparently not large audience will miss and mourn it.

After the cancellation was announced Monday, there was a lot of online criticism directed at FX for mismarketing this melancholy exercise in West Coast noir. Well, yes: a small, snarling terrier was not the best image to convey the tone of the show, about two down-on-their-luck buddies trying to pick up some private-eye work here and there in Ocean Beach, Calif. I think you would have done better with the Walrus and the Carpenter from Alice in Wonderland, or Lenny and George from Of Mice and Men -- lumpy fellows walking slowly at sunset and able to gauge just how disconcertingly far their shadows jut ahead.

There were deep undercurrents of anger in the show, sure -- Donal Logue was an ex-cop, a recovering alcoholic, about to see his ex-wife find a proper new husband played by Loren Dean, a man with clean features and a sort of unsmudgeable blondness. (That turned out to be not altogether true...) Logue, on the other hand, always looks like a fairly intelligent form of life that has just staggered out of a marsh. But there was no nipping, biting fierceness to him, nor to his feckless friend and partner (Michael Raymond-James), who also ended up betrayed in love.

I'm not sure how you would market a show that, while preserving the noir tradition of chivalry among losers, was so attuned to the steady defeatism, desperation and cruelty of this milieu. I would recommend anyone who hasn't seen the show to start with episode 3, "Change Partners." The case involves a bank manager with a masochistic need to believe his wife is cheating on him -- she happens to be played by Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer), that gravely sorrowful British actress so good at treading the via dolorosa. The hour ends with a devastating twist -- delivered with a deceptive quickness -- that leaves one person a suicide and everyone else with moral bruises pooling under the skin.

In a sense, the show's failure to find an audience was in keeping with its artistic achievement. If you're born to fall, how will you ever win? Forget it, Donal. It's Ocean Beach.


Fx Donal Logue