'Terriers' creator Ted Griffin hopes FX will give show another shot
"Save Terriers: the FX show, not the dogs."
That headline on Cinemablend.com pretty much says it all. FX's fine new drama wraps up its first season Wednesday, but its prospects for a second cycle are not great.
Despite its terrific cast, led by Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James, and behind-the-scenes pedigree, "Terriers" has been a notable disappointment for FX in terms of ratings, averaging about 500,000 viewers per episode.
Is it the title, which has nothing to do with a buddy show about plucky private investigators? Or the marketing campaign that showcased a mad dog more than the two actors?
"There’s definitely a lot of coulda shoulda woulda as far as how it got launched," said "Ocean's Eleven" scribe Ted Griffin about "Terriers," his first TV series. "And we could kick ourselves over what could have been the poster, what could have been the title -- it could have gone either way. It’s just one of those things. I’ve worked on movies that I thought were really going to succeed and didn’t and vice versa."
The series about two best friends who are trying to do better in life and become unlicensed private investigators could have worked as an episodic amateur-hour crime-solving caper on the strength of the performances alone. But what Griffin, executive producer Shawn Ryan ("The Shield") and Tim Minear ("Dollhouse") have developed is a rich, compelling story that has been unveiled gradually over 13 episodes as Hank (Logue) and Britt (Raymond-James) solve cases in dingy Ocean Beach in San Diego.
"These guys come from a genre of story that I’ve always enjoyed, whether it’s 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' or 'The Sting' or even 'The Professionals,' " Griffin said. "All the movies that influenced 'Ocean’s Eleven' -- that kind of camaraderie has always appealed to me, and I think I was trying to mine that same thing for this show. It started off with that camaraderie and built through there and deepened from that."
Griffin said he came up with the title, figuring it was a fitting description of the personalities of the characters.
"They're scrappy, scruffy, un-intimidating but unrelenting, tenacious, indefatigable," Griffin said. "Once they get a bone, they won't let go. Probably using a dog in the poster would have been better in [the] second season when what we were about was already established. We’ve all, in second-guessing, thought, 'Well, you put an opera diva on the poster of 'The Sopranos,' people might have gotten confused too. But they did a good job of labeling themselves a mafia show. And we could have done a better job of labeling ourselves as a PI show."
Griffin says he expects that FX will make a decision about the show's future next week, after all the final ratings for the season are in.
"I won't hold it against [FX President John Landgraf] if it doesn't go our way, but I hope it does," he said. "I think, in their hearts, FX and John Landgraf would love to renew it. They’re very proud of it and feel strongly about it. I think they’re a little baffled by the numbers. I think they’re also in business and they have to be realistic about it. They can’t just go with their hearts on that. So I’m not buying anything expensive. I’m not taking out mortgages based on future income."
In case Wednesday does mark the end of his first TV show, Griffin wants to express his gratitude to the fans of the show:
"From what I’ve read online, I couldn’t ask for a better response, a more intelligent and loving response," he said. "It’s really gratifying when you work on something and people really get it."
-- Maria Elena Fernandez
Photo: Donal Logue, left, and Michael Raymond-James star in "Terriers." Credit: Patrick McElhenney / FX