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FX explains why 'Terriers' was canceled

Terriers TV executives don't usually like to admit they've canceled a show. In fact, they go out of their way to avoid the issue by saying a show has been taken off the schedule, is on hiatus, or no decisions have been made.

On Monday, FX announced what fans of "Terriers" expected but still dreaded: There will be no second season of the terrific buddy drama starring Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James.

But then something highly unusual happened. FX President John Landgraf held a conference call to explain to the press why he arrived at the "disappointing" decision to cancel "Terriers." It was a thoughtful and detailed conversation that went way beyond the obvious -- that "Terriers," which averaged 509,000 viewers in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic, was the network's lowest-rated show ever.

"I really appreciate the fans that showed up weekly for this show and poured their passion into it and sent thousands of e-mails to us. … And I think, in general, I’ve really tried to run this channel, this network, in a much more transparent way," Landgraf said, explaining why he made himself available to the press Monday. "It runs transparently internally. We’ve all been very open with the creative people that come to work here, and we’ve tried to be more transparent with the press.

"The reality is that, even though nobody wants to dwell on it -- this is like batting in major league baseball," he said. "Nobody bats a thousand. There are creative successes that are commercial failures and commercial successes that are creative failures, and every once in a while you hit them both. And FX is confident enough in its overall track record that it’s OK. We open up the books, and we have an honest conversation about the times things don’t work. My estimation is that that’s better for everybody up to and including [the press] who don’t have to speculate about why we did something or didn’t do something else."

So, how did Landgraf arrive at the decision?

After the show's third episode aired, Landgraf ordered a poll of 600 people who had never seen promos for "Terriers" and had never watched an episode. Many critics and TV writers, including this blog, have attributed the show's low performance to its title and FX's marketing campaign, which included outdoor ads that highlighted a mean dog more than it did the two stars of the show and may have confused people about what the show was really about. (There, in fact, was no mean dog on the show, but as creator Ted Griffin explained to the Los Angeles Times last week, he came up with the title because of the scrappy quality of the characters).

Of the 600, 200 were hard-core FX drama followers, 200 preferred USA/TNT dramas, and 200 liked light dramas and identified with no particular network. The audience ranked the promos, watched episodes and then ranked the promos again, and they agreed that they liked the episodes and the marketing represented the show well.

Those polled, Landgraf said, thought "Terriers" was compatible with FX's brand "but not similar to other FX shows.  And to the extent that it was dissimilar — they found it to be a little less edgy, less sexy, less suspenseful. I think the things that were really wonderful about the show tended to be relatively subtle. It had a subtle charm that kind of crept into your psyche over time, and you got to like it more. I don’t know if subtlety is something the American public is buying in droves today.

"When I look at ‘Jersey Shore’ and ‘The Kardashians’ and ‘Sons of Anarchy’ and 'The Walking Dead,' you know, we can go on and on and up to and including what is selling in the political space in America, I wouldn’t say that subtlety and nuance describes the most successful pop content in America today," he said.  "If you want to know what it revealed, it revealed that those subtle charms took a little while to get a hold of people and that’s a hard thing to sell."

Terriers-Ep104_Hank-Britt_095 For those who like hard numbers, here's the hard truth FX was facing:  "Terriers" didn't even come close in ratings to other dramas FX has canceled.

In the primary telecast among 18-to-49-year-olds, "Dirt" averaged about 1.6 million people, "The Riches" averaged 1.4 million, "Over There" garnered 1.3 million, and "Damages" had 1.1. million viewers.  "Terriers" averaged 509,000 viewers.

Taking encores into account: "Dirt" registered 3.7 million viewers, "The Riches" had 3 million, "Over There" had 2.9 million, and "Damages" had 2.4 million. "Terriers" averaged 1.6 million.

"Those numbers are even significantly lower than many shows that we canceled after one season, like ‘Over There’ or ‘Dirt’ and ‘The Riches,’ which ultimately didn’t go the distance. You could have double the ratings and it would still be the lower-rated of all those," Landgraf said.

Landgraf half-joked that if he renewed the show, he would have changed the title to "Terriers, P.I." but said he really didn't believe that changing the title and increasing marketing would do the trick. The billboards with the mean dogs, Landgraf said, only were displayed in Los Angeles and New York City.

"If I legitimately believed that the reason the show didn’t succeed on our air was that we felt we failed to adequately describe to the audience what the show was about, that would have been reason alone to renew it," he said. "One of the reasons I spent a lot of money and had people spend a lot of time doing a postmortem analysis is because the question was: Was the marketing campaign fair to the show? There are plenty of people in Los Angeles who drove by various billboards and are always going to say 'no,' but the reality is they don’t understand the reality of how everyone else in America was presented this show. So from my standpoint, if we did market the show, how would I believe that putting the show on air would miraculously triple or quadruple ratings, which is what it would need to be to be successful?

"I just couldn’t find any way from a business standpoint or quantitatively how to do a second season of the show," he said, "and that’s really unfortunate because I love it, but that’s the reality."

It is indeed unfortunate for the small but loyal group of fans that fell in love with Hank (Logue) and Britt (Raymond-James) and were left wanting more.

Here's one tidbit Griffin offered: At the end of the season (now series) finale,  Hank and Britt went straight.

--Maria Elena Fernandez
twitter.com/writerchica

Photos, from top: Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James in "Terriers." Credit: Mike Muller / FX. Logue and Raymond-James. Credit: Patrick McElhenney / FX

RELATED:

"Terriers creator Ted Griffin hopes FX will give show another shot"

 

 
Comments () | Archives (69)

Edgy dialogue and flashes of strong acting --especially by Donal Logue's sister-- but a bit too emo for my long-run taste.

THANKS A LOT, FX.. I have now have absolutely no reason to pay my cable bill and will be saving money really soon. (Sad day.)

This is the first time I've commented on any show -- new, old, or cancelled -- but I am truly disappointed that Terriers will not be back. Definitely one of the best shows in a very, very long time. It was different in a good way.

too bad ,it was a really entertaining show.I guess maybe another reality show,the American audience doesn't know what a good show is when they see one

With all due respect to Mr. Landgraf, I was one of those people who did not get the TV ads (funny - I live in NYC and never saw the billboards...)
Because of this, I only caught the show a few weeks in, but was immediately hooked by its acting, plot, and the fact that the viewer actually had to pay some attention to catch everything (perish the thought!)

Funny thing is, the characters in Terriers were often put in challenging spots where they had to sometimes do the wrong thing to get the right result - maybe a little ironic here that FX may be doing the technically "right" thing here, only to get the wrong result . . .or am I just imagining the tone of regret in Landgraf's statements?

This was a great show. I think it is a big mistake to cancel it. I don't think FX gave it a fair chance. The promos were terrible. You couldn't really tell what the show was about. I thought it was about dogs. Hopefully another network will pick it up.

I've seen a lot of comments about Americans not enjoying quality, and favoring reality shows and competitions to good stories. That's true, there's no denying that. The silver lining is, that talented people will still make quality TV shows. They may all only last 1 or 2 seasons, but history has proven that they still get made. This article also shows that some networks still want quality shows to succeed, they just occasionally/often don't.

Also, very odd that my 2 favorite new shows, Terriers and The Walking Dead were at opposite ends of the ratings spectrum.

I looked at the billboard everyday on my way to work. Decided to check out the show because I have 2 terriers. I wanted to see what the show was all about. Had no freaking idea it was a PI show. I was hooked after 1 episode. Sadly I'll never know if they went straight or made the left. I feel like I lost some old friends.

Finally we can now get back to the serious business of adding yet another reality show to the evening mix......

/sarc

So much for finding a niche and filling it programming morons. You did with Terriers. The FAIL is on FX and the lack of promotion, marketing, or anything that might have increased the viewers. Donal Logue & Michael Raymond-James get the last laugh as Terriers was a terrific CV enhancer. Rock on guys, you had my wife & I glued in front of the set for 13 weeks, thank you!

Can anyone explain to me why "Archer" is still on the air?
That show is awful. Terriers was only second to SOA in my opinion.
Sunny sucked this season so they should pull that and give Terriers a second chance with accurate marketing.

Terriers is a fantastic show. Thank you to all the cast and crew for putting together something so compelling and fun,especially Tim Minear, whose involvement was the only reason I heard of the show. I didn't see any advertising, and neither had anyone I mentioned the show to.

To FX President John Landgraf:
I'm sorry to hear about your decision to not renew Terriers, and troubled that you believed a group of 600 people (possibly all of them in LA) could give you an accurate idea of how everyone would respond to the (sparse and non representative of the show)advertising. I ask that if you are so certain the show can not succeed, please let another network have it. Hopefully you will at least put it out on DVD.

Terriers was a great show. A second season would have given it the chance to to catch on. Go ahead and put on the same reality crap the other channels are running. I won't watch yours either. What happened to the time when shows were given the chance to evolve? This was a really good show that should have had a chance.

It is to such lackluster fanfare for Mr. Landgraf that I offer this advice: unless you take an uneducated 18 year old American adult male, and ask him what he would like to see on television- shows like Terriers will never survive.

There is a reason why the Marines call on high school males to serve, because they are stupid and can be trained to run directly into machine gun fire while your elite troops penetrate vulnerabilities in the flank. Now, do you really want to base your advertising dollars on a bunch of people like those portrayed on Jersey Shore?

There is a higher purpose in life other than advertising dollars. Unfortunately it appears that FX has a perception skewed by the likes of those "Jersey Shore" mensa characters. Those who grasp my sarcasm, enjoyed Terriers, those who did not still hold the executive positions at FX> I had to dumb down this critique so the "people" at FX could further contemplate it's meaning..

I am so glad I relinquished my American Citizenship, you are a country of ignorant bastard fools..

It is to such lackluster fanfare for Mr. Landgraf that I offer this advice: unless you take an uneducated 18 year old American adult male, and ask him what he would like to see on television- shows like Terriers will never survive.

There is a reason why the Marines call on high school males to serve, because they are stupid and can be trained to run directly into machine gun fire while your elite troops penetrate vulnerabilities in the flank. Now, do you really want to base your advertising dollars on a bunch of people like those portrayed on Jersey Shore?

There is a higher purpose in life other than advertising dollars. Unfortunately it appears that FX has a perception skewed by the likes of those "Jersey Shore" mensa characters. Those who grasp my sarcasm, enjoyed Terriers, those who did not still hold the executive positions at FX> I had to dumb down this critique so the "people" at FX could further contemplate it's meaning..

I am so glad I relinquished my American Citizenship, you are a country of ignorant fools..

Comments: In my opinion there's a definite publicity failure here; also it might help to change the title although I was hooked, line and sinker after the 1st show (which I also stumbled on having seen no advertisements for it)!! GREAT: writing, performances, story lines, and a fabulous cast. It's edgy, unique and one of the best written show in years. I enjoy Hank & Britt's innovative tenaciousness to right a wrong doing & clever ways of doing it also the banter between them is priceless. This show is so incredibly superior compared to the other mediocre shows that are staying on the network. I have always looked forward to seeing this show every week! It would be a travesty not to have endless seasons!

I loved Terriers and totally bummed that it got canceled before I finished watching all the episodes I recorded. I only found that out when I went to FX online to see when their next season would start. ~feh!~

RIP best show ever. You truly were my #1 show i looked forward to the most each week & season 2 couldn't come soon enough. So sad...

I'm pretty sure it's because of the horrible title! Sounded like it would be something on Animal Planet.

are there episodes still to be aired?

Hey dummies. You should give it a second shot with some QUALITY MARKETING!!!! I found the show by accident and it was a great show. I think some marketing boneheads at FX should be cancelled. If I had made my decision whether to watch the show on the lame dog ads, I would've passed too. Maybe another network will pick it up. Oh yeah, I miss Vic Mackey.

 
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