An Elegy For Terriers On FX

Listen, I don’t blame them for canceling the show. I don’t. The show suffered criminally low ratings. Nobody really… watched the program. Hell, I didn’t watch it from the beginning. We grabbed about six episodes for the plane trips on our vacation, and found ourselves in love with the show.

A show that was drifting lazily toward cancellation.

(I do however blame the shit out of their marketing team. Terriers flew under the radar in part because that’s where they advertised it. I love the show, and I almost forgot that it was on.)

I’m happy it got to finish out its season. A lot of shows don’t get that opportunity — though The Gods Bless the DVD format, because now shows canceled before the ends of their respective seasons can gain at least a little life on the back end, can at least be seen instead of ending up buried in the pop culture equivalent of a shallow grave near a gaggle of hobos.

Which means that from this point forward, you can at least point people to that DVD collection on your shelf. The one called Terriers. The one that features the Sunshine Noir of San Diego. The one that shares blood and soul with Veronica Mars. The one that stars the criminally underused Donal Logue and the hopefully-not-one-day-also-criminally-underused Michael Raymond-James. The one about friendship and love and murder and conspiracy, a show that was equal turns hilarious and heart-wrenching.

The one that, in five years time, someone will tell you “they never heard of.”

“Oh, I never heard of that,” they’ll say.

“I know.” You know.

It’ll give you a chance to lend them the DVD. (Of course, by then, fuck it, they’ll have to download it from the iTunes Mega Brain because while I love streaming and downloadable media I lament our inability to share such media with friends, because this forces them to buy it, and let’s be honest, they probably won’t).

Let Terriers live on.

Like you do — or should do — with other one-season wonders.

What other one-season wonders can you think of that earned your love? Firefly, obviously. Wonderfalls, most definitely. Both with producer Tim Minear, who was also attached to Terriers. Can we all just agree that Minear’s name attached to a project means it’s a) going to be brilliant and b) going to get canceled? I’m almost of a mind to not watch anything he does — I just don’t want my heart broken.

So, on a day when everybody else is going to be talking about WikiLeaks, let’s talk about one-season wonders, shows that made it to a season (or less) and broke our hearts when they went away.

What one-season shows do you miss most?


  • The Unusuals! Never advertised, moved around in time slots, and all around abused for its 10 episode season. I’m not the biggest fan of police procedurals (though there wasn’t much procedure to it) but this was a “cop show” with some real heart. Instead of your forced gritty dark precinct you had an engaging and (honestly) quirky band of misfits. And the cast! Harold Perrineau and Adam Goldberg steal the show far and away. And Jeremy Renner (in his down time between filming The Hurt Locker and his sudden Oscar nomination catapult to stardom) proves he’s got acting chops that ought not be ignored.

    Yeah, I’m still mad this go canceled before it ever got a chance.

  • Pretty much anything Bryan Fuller’s ever done, as at most he’s generally able to get a season and a half before whoever he’s working for realizes his show is a bit too quirky for a general audience and he gets shut down. I mean, technically, it got part of a second season, but I’m gonna go ahead and through out Pushing Daises anyway.

    I ADORED that show. It made the little child in my heart dance with giddy glee. Morbid humor, goofy mysteries, a noir detective, and the greatest voice-over in the history of television. What wasn’t there to like?

    • @Patrick —

      Word to Fuller. Love me some Fuller. He was one of the minds behind Wonderfalls, too — which to me is really the best of the one-season wonders. Plus, as a bonus, its season actually wraps up in a way that gives the *entire show* closure, so it’s worth the DVD purchase.

      But Pushing Daisies was great. It sometimes started to move a little too stridently toward “cloying” by the end, though, for my tastes. I needed a bit more of that bitter acerbic edge found in the earlier episodes (or in Wonderfalls).

      — c.

  • I think the spat Fox had with Dish Network helped Terriers get low ratings. Around the third episode or so is right when their disagreement happened. If I hadn’t went to a friend’s house, I would have missed out on a good three or four episodes before they settled things.

    There was a lot I really enjoyed about the show. The acting was great. Donal Logue and Michael-Raymond James had amazing chemisty and banter together. It was well shot with lots of nice subtle touches (like smoking being a no-no on film, so Dollworth ex-partner chews on those white, plastic cigar-holders). It moved easily between the funny and the touching, the silly and the suspenseful.

    What I didn’t like was the overarching plot. I can see you disagree with me, but I thought it was just horrid. It kept growing larger and larger and more overly complicated and trite. I thought it took away from the characters (easily the best part) and the more interesting loosery and mundane, bottom-of-the-barrell cases they worked (trying to get the dry-cleaner’s dog back or retrieve the teenager’s money that the hooker stole). The show had a penchant for pulling things out of it’s ass, character inconsistencies for dramatic purposes, and the deus ex machina that pushes Brit and Hank on to the next clue or outright resolves the conflict.

    On a personal level, I could care less about Tim Miner. My opinion of Firefly would get me savagely beaten were I to ever step foot in a gaming convention again. I did, however, expect a little bit more from Shawn Ryan after The Shield.

    I was hoping for a second season, hoping that the show could find it’s stride and understand what it’s focus and drive should be. Because, all my gripes aside, there really were some brilliant moments of television there that just got pissed away.

    My one source of comfort really is the ending. I like to think that the two friends turned toward Mexico and just kept driving. I like to picture them down there someone, maybe one of those Spring Break Towns, still working cases and trying to scrape enough cash together for some beers.

  • “Eyes” from 2005. It was Tim Daly’s troubleshooting agency series which was so damn smart and fun that I kept the few episodes that ran on my Tivo for years after it went off the air, losing them only when that Tivo died. More maddeningly, even though they shot a 12 episode season, they took it off the air after 5 episodes, and while the other 7 exist out in the ether (they apparently showed on Direct TV) it has never been released on DVD.

    it was created by John Macnamara, who was also behind another short lived series, Profit, which I loved but whose death bothers me a little bit less since, by the end, I’m not sure where they thought it was going.

    -Rob D.

  • It wasn’t advertised?

    After 8pm, you couldn’t sit through a commercial break on FX without seeing an ad for Terriers. During Sons of Anarchy mid-point break at the 30 minute mark, they would actually show two commercials for it (sandwiched inbetween some car ads and a teaser for their new boxing drama).

    I’ve heard good things about it, but the ads made it look like a bumbling beach-stoner private eye show. Not my cup of tea. What was it actually about?

    As for 1 season shows that could have been great, look to NBC’s “Kings” from 2008 – 2009. It’s set in contemporary times in an alternate reality USA where the Eastern seaboard is a warring set of fiefdoms. The story is a conspiracy drama that revolves around the royal family of Gilboa (aka New York state) and their interaction with a sword-in-the-stone archetype peasant named David.

    The production values were huge, the dialog was excellent, and the treachery was as thick as cold blood. Unfortunately, the price tag cost them their second season, but the season still closes well enough that you can watch it as a complete show.

    • @Tome:

      It wasn’t just that it wasn’t advertised — it wasn’t advertised widely beyond its channel, for one, and it wasn’t advertised well. Case in point: you thought it was a dipshit stoner private eye show, which isn’t all that on point. Private eyes, yes. The two leads kind of seem like dipshits, sure, but they’re actually very capable. And the storylines were equal parts absurd and dark: it was really a noir show, with that great “inverted pyramid of corruption” you find in the best noir. As the character dig deeper, they’re not only digging up more damning information to show how wide the conspiracy goes, but they’re also digging their own graves. These were troubled characters with complex lives.

      Marketing failed. Totally nailed the wrong vibe for it.

      As for KINGS — I liked that well enough, but it lost me after five or six episodes. Too heavy handed with the imagery and metaphor, and frankly, a little boring by the end of it. YMMV, obviously.

      — c.

  • Sometimes it feels like whenever I start really digging a show, that is a guarantee of its quick demise. My three big one-season wonder regrets are:

    Nowhere Man – This was on UPN (I think?) in the early 90’s.
    Roar! – A Celtic fantasy-adventure series with Heath Ledger
    Freaks & Geeks – The cancellation of this show was a tragedy.

  • I’ll miss Terriers something fierce. It was the best noir since Veronica Mars, no doubt. My wife, who is decidedly not a noir fan (other than Veronica Mars, which I also made her watch and which she came to love) thought the show kicked ass as well. It just had a great mix of one-liners, plot twists and character quirks that were odd without feeling forced. I just wish they’d been able to pull in the numbers.

    Call me silly, but I really wish Brisco County Jr. had gotten a second season. Man that show was out of its mind, but in a really fun way! Plus, you gotta love a young Bruce Campbell as a hip, semi-ironic cowboy with a super-intelligent horse.

  • Because I don’t get the channel, I didn’t watch it—if I let myself, I’ll have a hulu queue easily in the quad digits, so I don’t usually go that route unless it’s a regular TV show I miss. That said, I know the pain of a lost show. Aside from the Holy Grail of Firefly (a given), I’ve missed:

    Kindred: the Embraced—yes, it was terribly low budget. Yes, vampires in the daylight. Yes, we call it Kindred: the Disgraced. But I have rarely seen a more spot-on soap-opera style intrigue that so readily captured the bitchery that is the Camarilla on a good year. To be fair, the actor who played the Prince died in a motorcycle accident (or so the story goes), so poof, off it went.

    New Amsterdam—I’m a sucker for romances, anyway, and this had romance at its very core. The story unfolded slowly, but with fun mysteries and whatnot in between. It’s no Castle, relying entirely on heartstrings and headtilts rather than humor, but I enjoyed curling up with a hot cup of tea and watching.

    Black Books—The British comedy show to which I hold all other British comedy shows. I both love and hate the characters, and I have never laughed quite so hard as when I stream that one through Hulu.

    I bet there’s more. I just can’t think at OhGod o’clock in the morning.

  • Journeyman. While it looked like it could have been another Quantum Leap time-travel “fix this thing in the past” tuned with every episode into a more and more tangled time travel show that embraced all the twists it could. Plus, it was in a block after the mostly good season of Heroes and Chuck. It got a “kinda” ending, still no DVD release.

    Also Day Break, the Groundhog Day show. I didn’t get to it until DVD (which does include unaired episodes including a real ending), definitely worth picking up for fans of the genre.

  • In no particular order:

    The Tick (live action version)
    The Unusuals
    The Book of Daniel
    The Prisoner
    Space: Above and Beyond
    The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.

    I want to include Carnivale since it was cut short, but it got two seasons.

    Space: Above and Beyond in particular was a favorite of mine. I still think it’s one of the best sci-fi TV shows of all time.

  • I think the best comment I’ve seen about the asstastic marketing for TERRIERS was on Facebook — a friend of mine commenting on my imported-Tweet about not watching it because the ads didn’t grab me at all:

    It needed a better hook than, “No, man, don’t you get it?! They’re detectives! And it’s a TV show! It’s a TV show about detectives! ”

    As far as one-season wonders go, I’ll second (or third) Brisco County, and New Amsterdam. I also liked the Dresden Files show on SciFi/Syfy/SyphillisChannel/whatever, and in the realm of nobody-remembers-this-but-me: The mid-80s David Rappaport series, THE WIZARD, featuring a dwarf toymaker/inventor who solved mysteries. Hell, that show isn’t even on DVD.

  • I am one of the unilluminated masses. I never heard of “Terriers”! It’s possible it clashed with something else but honestly I don’t think I have ever heard of it. (A trip to IMDB is in order)

    Loads of one season shows I’ve missed over time:

    Cupid (Not the greatest premise but I didn’t care as the two principals did speed arguing! Awesome!) Jeremy Piven

    Agree with Space Above and Beyond

    There was one about the survivor of a plane crash (was on Friday’s so guaranteed death) Lucky 13 (?)

    Brisco of course! (Bought the DVD’s and watched the whole thing again recently)

    LEGEND – A western with John Delancy and Richard Dean Anderson

    Mann and Machine

    Firefly likes been mentioned.

    I’m sure I have more! Heh heh

  • I absolutely loved Studio 60, which only made it 22 episodes. They did let it finish the season out, but I was disappointed when it ended. It was funny, but in the witty – make you think – kind of way. Which is probably why it was cancelled.

    Moonlight also only survived one season. I watched it just how you suggested people should share Terriers, from a friend’s DVD. It was a little cheesy, but I love me some vampires.

    The new show market seems brutal. More and more shows seem to be short lived. I didn’t watch Terriers because the commercials didn’t make it seem that interesting. I thought about it, and then promptly forgot. I dvr Sons of Anarchy (one my favorite shows ever), so I never watched the longer commercials. I don’t remember them advertising anywhere but FX. Such a shame, if it was that good a show, to die because of poor ratings and bad marketing.

  • So very many shows I used to watch were cancelled in the first season that I tend not to watch new shows anymore unless they are RAVED about beforehand. Ones I miss the most include (in no particular order):

    1) The Black Donnellys (NBC)
    2) The Nine (ABC)
    3) Flash Forward (ABC)
    4) Invasion (ABC)
    5) Reunion (FOX)
    6) Caprica (Sy-Fy)

    Jericho made it 2 seasons thanks to the fans, but just barely. It had so much potential but it just went nowhere.

  • 1. I find myself watching Firefly because of this post. That and I have a Western to write and when I have a big genre project I like to unwind and put myself in the mood at the same time.

    2. I’m bookmarking this thread. It’s full of shows I now want to look. Quality and ability to watch in a week? I’m in. Fits my current schedule perfectly.

  • It’s weird. It’s like, some sinister being cancelled Terriers just to spite you. JUST TO SPITE YOU I SAY!

    Muahahahahahahahahaha Merry Christmas! >:]

    I miss the American version of Life on Mars and My Own Worst Enemy.

  • Da Vinci’s City Hall – Spin-off of the brilliant Da Vinci’s Inquest. Loved the transition from Vancouver coroner to the mayoral office.

    Eerie, Indiana – Anthology television and weekly weird mystery shows are my favorite genre and I was sorely disappointed to lose this show.

    Max Headroom – Technically, this saw two seasons but since the first was only six episodes and the second was only eight, I’m calling it a one-season wonder. Dated now, sure, but it still has some of the best ideas on television.

    My So-Called Life – It was a time, it was a place.

    I wasn’t around when this show was canceled but if it’s any consolation to those who mourn their one-season favorites:

    The Honeymooners – Perfected the blueprint of the situation comedy and only lasted one season. Gleason and CBS pulled the plug as Perry Como ate into its viewership and the writers worried about their ability to remain fresh in the half-hour format.

  • So I ADORED Terriers, The Black Donnelliys and now watching Breaking Bad. Any more shows along those lines?
    I will admit I watch long running shows like House and Dexter, but those are now tending to dry up for me.
    Any Suggestions?
    Anything with too much comedy isn’t really aligned with my psyche.

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