Not being one for cops & robbers TV – yes, I’ll admit with it being on the air 2/3 of my life I have been guilty of catching an episode or two of Law & Order and its many iterations, no one can completely resist the strange yet awesome combo of Ice-T, Richard Belzer AND Chris Meloni – the one spin on the crime genre that’s always intriguing is the focus on down and out, possibly shady but ultimately good guy PI stories. This very kind of series has recently surfaced on FX, the network that has truly cornered the market on anti-hero tales (see Sons of Anarchy, The Shield, Nip/Tuck, Justified), and its name is Terriers.
Huh? Isn’t that the TLC show about a kennel for designer dogs? Obscure title aside, after viewing the pilot I immediately wanted more and every episode of this SoCal detective series that’s followed has delivered on its fine first hour.
Coming from the mind who created The Shield, Shawn Ryan, and the wordsmith of the Ocean’s 11 remake, Ted Griffin, Terriers is such a perfect mixture of self-contained cases and over-arching mystery that this fan sees strong resemblances to gone-before-its-time fave Veronica Mars since it includes conspiracies and corrupt, wealthy locals in a seemingly idyllic beachside community (sans the high school setting). While not starring a spunky, pixieish blonde it does have an excellent lead pairing in stars Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James as the two intrepid private investigator heroes who, despite not being officially licensed, take cases that continually put them in harm’s way (or police custody), don’t always pay off big and usually involve beefier men highly trained in the art of pummeling. Basically the kind of situations that create great drama, action and quite a lot of comedy.
With a rather lackluster crop of new shows on the big five networks’ fall schedule, Terriers is a welcome breath of fresh air, another noteworthy notch in FX’s impressive belt of series and has the privilege of receiving a coveted “series recording” space on this TV aficionado’s overtaxed DVR queue. In other words, it’s one to watch – FX, Wednesdays at 10/9c.
Being only half-way through the 13-episode run, it’s easy to play catch-up thanks to the interwebs. Let this excellent promo whet your viewing appetite.
Tonight brings offerings that pose little to no threat to my precious DVR space with the return of two more dry dramas from The CW and the beginning of a new form of “late” night on NBC.
The CW seems to have cornered the market on telling tales of teen trials and tribulations, and while it’s sensational enough for a lot of viewers I’ve yet to find much enjoyment from their line-up both past and present (the snappy snark of Veronica Mars being the only exception). First up is the people-still-watch-this seventh season of One Tree Hill. Limping into the year it will be without breakout star Chad Michael Murray, which makes me speculate this could be the swan song season of the series.
Still hot, with its trend-setting cast firmly at the center of the Young Hollywood set and getting constant media exposure, Gossip Girl begins its third season following the pampered prep school kids into their first year of college. Never a series to shy away from creating and embracing buzz (dig the ad campaign from last year) the big news going into this season is main moneyed douche Chuck Bass’s same-sex liplock by episode six. A truly less-than-scandalous story for anyone who finds the “shock” factor of a man-on-man kiss both parochial and passe – plus those who’ve read the GG books (or been conscious while watching any episode) knows the guy started out gay.
With The Tonight Show torch now firmly in the able hands of Conan (CoCo!), Jay Leno takes up his new post weeknights at 10/9pm that seems eerily like his old one (though official reports state that fans of Tonight should expect “big” changes). While Leno will abandon the traditional late-night host’s desk and act as a kind of roving emcee, introducing the work of a team of comics who have gone out in the field to tape pieces, each show will still have a monologue at the top of each show, a guest – Jerry Seinfeld is scheduled for the premiere – and close with his famous “Jaywalking” or headline segments, which will lead directly into local news.
Leno’s show will no doubt be watched heavily during its initial inception, considering his is an experiment for a network that has traditionally seen this timeslot deliver acclaimed scripted hits over the years (ER, Law & Order, Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law), defining it as the gold standard of sophisticated programming. However with the business rapidly changing from what was seen in the ’80s and ’90s, this new approach to primetime is going to be closely monitored by NBC and competitors alike to see if a viable model to future programming has been found.
NBC’s track record with adapting international series for American audiences has been rather hit or miss (Highs: The Office. Lows: Coupling. New Lows: Kath & Kim.) so the recent news that the peacock is set to adapt the groundbreaking UK drama series Prime Suspect is a bit…suspect.
The original ran in seven parts from 1991 to 2006 and starred Helen Mirren as lady-of-a-certain-age chief homicide detective Jane Tennison, a role that made waves when the series debuted as it was the first to feature a woman as the head of a murder investigation unit. A hit with critics, it earned Mirren two Emmy awards for lead actress in a miniseries and made her a household name in the US when it aired as part of PBS’s Mystery series.
With such a stellar pedigree, NBC should take measured steps to ensure that their Prime Suspect will have its own tone that sets it apart from workhorse Law & Order procedurals (no L&O: Across the Pond, thank you). The crux of the show’s success will be in casting the lead. Considering such an acclaimed and formidable actress originated the role, someone award-winning caliber must come on board to give the US version some clout in standing up (and out) to the plethora of other crime-centered dramas scattered around the dial, especially ones with strong female characters (NBC’s own Emmy-winning Mariska Hargitay, for example). American producers will no doubt want to sex up the role, which means skewing the age range down, considering the hesitancy to cast women over 40 in high-profile leads. This actress age-ism is a shame because, like a fine wine, the best only get better with time, and this kind of role demands someone who’s been around the block.
Topping my “For Your Consideration” list would be Jean Smart. While most well-known for comedy – first gaining recognition on Designing Women, but racking up 3 Emmy wins in the last decade for her guest role on Frasier and one for supporting actress playing Christina Applegate’s martini-swilling mother on Samantha Who? – she’s also proven a knack for the dramatics, and earned rave reviews, with her portrayal of the president’s unstable, whistle-blowing wife on the fifth season of 24.
Opening the forum for discussion: Who else is an ideal contender to take up the American “Queen” of police mantle?