Terriers” is an odd duck, in (mostly) a good way. On its face, there’s nothing remotely new about the show — a buddy dramedy about small-time detectives scrounging for work, one an ex-cop with an ex-wife and past booze problem. The tone, however, is reminiscent of an independent film, dragging those with enough patience through nuanced little twists and turns. While FX ought to have a hard time selling a concept this low — one can envision network notes pleading “Raise the stakes!” — the series proves aptly named, inasmuch as there’s a surprising amount of fight in this underdog.
After a couple of network sitcoms that didn’t pan out, Donal Logue returns as Hank Dolworth, the aforementioned cop, who since leaving the force has teamed with Britt (Michael Raymond-James of “True Blood”) as private eyes. They are introduced staking out a house in a pool-cleaning truck, pulling off a caper that screams “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective” more than “Mannix” or “The Rockford Files.”
Soon enough, though, Hank is solicited for help from a former colleague looking for his missing daughter, and he and Britt are interacting with a sleazy developer (Christopher Cousins, recurring on “Breaking Bad”) who appears to be trying to buy them off. This leads to a rather noirish web of intrigue, albeit strung together out of very small bills.
Meanwhile, Hank pines for his ex-wife (Kimberly Quinn), who looks to be moving on; and Britt tries to maintain equilibrium with his steady g.f. (Laura Allen), not helping matters when his eyes bug out after she broaches the subject of wanting a child.
Created by Ted Griffin and produced with “The Shield’s” Shawn Ryan, “Terriers” is all about atmosphere. The individual cases aren’t particularly enthralling, the characters are kind of a downer, yet each hour ended with enough momentum to drag me somewhat grudgingly into the next.
Tonally more similar to “Justified” than to FX’s blacker-than-black crime dramas, and featuring a breezy chemistry between Logue and Raymond-James, “Terriers” demonstrates it’s possible to cobble together something worth watching without most of the usual bells and whistles — or much in the way of sex and violence, although the language is pretty blue.
In a TV crime universe that’s fond of neatness and morals couched in black and white, credit FX with gambling on a show that’s messy, melancholy and gray — a bit of a mutt, perhaps, but based on the five previewed hours, far from a dog.