Terriers made its maiden voyage on Wednesday, September 8th on FX and the response has been excellent. For good reason. Not only is it yet another example on why FX is continually raising the bar of television dramas but also in that they’re willing to embrace things that don’t adhere to the “look at me” vibe so common in television.

What’s your gimmick?

Terriers is small. Delightfully so. Donal Logue stars and in his own words has compared it to The Rockford Files, which I certainly see. There’s also a bit of a Fletch vibe to the proceedings but the end result is a show that is all about character and one that plays heavily on the amazing chemistry of its two leads (Logue and Michael Raymond-James, who is a revelation in this). Even better, episodes are directed by guys like Craig Brewer, John Dahl, Rian Johnson, and Clark Johnson and if you need to know who those people are I already know a lot about you that is flawed.

In the coming weeks I’ll be giving my thoughts on the first half of season one and sharing with you an interview with Raymond-James) but first, the star of the show. I was on a conference call with Donal Logue earlier this week [with a bunch of bloggers with blogs named after themselves and stuff, which either made me really old or ancient]. It was a nice conversation with references to Small Wonder, the fact Logue gets killed in nearly every movie he’s in, and other minutia. Here’s a glimpse at the man and how he does his business. But first, a peek at the show:

Nick Nunziata: So this show, I love the tagline, too small to fail,
because everything is so high concept now, and it’s a great time
for TV, but there are a lot of really big things, and it’s big
character twists and stuff like that. This show delights itself in
the character moments and the smaller stuff. When you mentioned
Craig Brewer, but you’ve also got like John Dahl and Rian Johnson
and Clark Johnson, all these great filmmakers. Can you tell me a
little bit about what it’s like to make what is really like a
little … show with a network that’s actually kind of the mark of
quality right now?

Donal Logue: That’s it. You just nailed it. It’s like the networks,
the taste coming from up town, down below is the tone. They know
what’s good, so you’ll feel like, I mean, sometimes with Bill …
films, in the middle of it, someone gets scared, and they want to
make something that they feel is more palatable for a wider audience.
And you’re like, no, no. Don’t get scared and change midstream.
And that’s when it doesn’t know what it is.

thing about FX is they know exactly what they want and what the show
is, and it’s most importantly … and then they bring in all these
great directors. I mean, Clark Johnson directed The Shield and
The Wire. He’s not going to lead you. He’s not going to not
understand where you’re going with drama. Clark was a great actor
himself actually. Rian Johnson and John Dahl and Guy Perwin and
Tucker Gates and then actually Ted Griffin himself came on to direct
two episodes, and Adam Arkin directed two episodes, so both guys were
so fantastic. So we were just lucky up and down all over.

Nick Nunziata: Yes. It’s so refreshing, and another thing, to see
that they actually take the time to focus on characters and that’s
an overused term that TV shows build themselves on being character
driven, but in reality this thing, the crimes take a backseat. All
of that stuff takes a backseat to seeing where you guys are going to
go in your lives. It’s really impressive.

Donal Logue: Yes. You know what? It’s fun. And believe me. We feel
a bit of the heat because it’s like you know that it’s like,
look, Michael, if they don’t—hey, look. I buy into it, and I
believe it. I believe that it should see people who really relate to
each other, who really get along, and the relationship is
complicated, and on a weird side note, they kind of look like guys
that you feel like, oh, I’ve seen these guys in my town. I haven’t
really seen them on TV before. But there’s something in every
direction that feels kind of real that the show hinges upon that. If
they’re not along for the ride with us, then they’re not along,
you know.

Nick Nunziata: Yes.

Donal Logue: And it’s funny because I’ve read, I mean, honestly
people have been really, really … for this show has been kind of
awesome and overwhelming. Of course there have been a couple of
people who have took a swipe at the show and just, it’s funny.
Just out of curiosity, you end up looking up the future of the guy or
who he hits, and just take a look at judgment if the person has taken
a swipe of your show. But I wouldn’t take a ride with these two
characters ever. It’s like, well, dude, we wouldn’t ride with
you. We wouldn’t want to ride with you. And if you … my fan, I
think I was doing something wrong.

there’s an element to it like it’s so weird because in
television, you have to appeal to everybody. In rock and music, you
know, you’re like, hey, man. I’m Metallica. I play this type of
music. I don’t expect everybody to like what I do, but this is
what I do.

it’s weird because TV, you’ve got to kind of have, especially in
terms of critical praise or whatever, you have to have a broader
appeal than that. But hopefully what we’re doing is human, and if
you do it, and you do it honestly, and it’s really character
driven, as you say, then it … with people and they response because
we are a low-tech show. It’s not fancy. What I like about these
guys as private I’s, which is weird is, most private I’s do a lot
of work on the Internet now. “Britt” and “Hank” are kind of
… to still kind of do old school, Jake Gittes kind of tricks to
kind of get done what they have to get done, so I like that about

I only had a little time but some other interesting stuff came out of the chat, so I figured I’d share.

Donal on building the character and its connection to the real him:

“Before “Hank,” I just stole everything from myself.
Yes, but I like “Hank.” I think I actually fell upon “Hank”
at a time in my life where I felt like something about that guy and
where I was in my life just met in this perfect kind of, we just fell
into step next to each other at just the right time. In another
point in my life or a couple of years ago, I couldn’t have done it,
and I wouldn’t have been the right guy to do it. But I wouldn’t
say that about me or him now.”

“Some are coincidental and others were more intentional. One
very kind of cheesy one, I would say, is when it started and I first
met with the wardrobe designer, and in fairness to her, like no one
really, I think “Hank” was kind of seemed like an older guy at
the time when it was first written. For some reason, there was this
weird like Dennis Franz kind of just in terms of the way he
presented himself of just kind of slacks and short sleeve button down
shirts and ties and stuff. There was part of me that was like,
“Well, I grew up in this community. I have a lot of friends who
still live in Ocean Beach. Let me just be me. Let me just show you
how I would externally look being in one of these beach communities
in San Diego.”

started kind of from the outside in. And I feel like, especially
like there’s something interesting about guys who used to be cops
or in the military or whatever, and had to tow the line, and when it
ends, and it’s kind of like I don’t want to tow the line for the
man anymore. I don’t need to be shored back inside. I don’t
need to dress a certain way. I can just—I’m free. If you want
the kind of invest in being a perpetual kid at some point, you’re
like, well, you might as well take advantage of it and be free to
look the way you want to look and be the way you want to be. So the
external vibe helped start to inform a lot of the internal feelings.
Then whatever my private relationship is with things like alcohol and
stuff like that, a lot of them just happen to be kind of
coincidental, but … I knew an awful lot about, and so that helped

there were a series of really interesting things like, Shawn and Tim
Minear and Ted, and they were like, “How would you feel about
‘Hank’ having a sister and having a family member with mental
illness issues and stuff?” It was just like there was a lot of
stuff that me and my sister, who plays my sister—my sister, Karina,
played my sister on the show, “Stephanie”—there’s a lot of
stuff that we could relate to, so it just started added up and
becoming a combination of bringing “Hank” closer to who I was and
then elements in “Hank’s” life that I could really relate to.”

“I’ve always described like the darkest period
in my life as being kind of like this thing from 1989 through 1991
when I was kind of like just bouncing around homeless in New York and
LA, bad stuff, and to me it represents the real dark cloud period of
my life. It’s funny because when I talk to my friends—some of
whom I felt like I really mooched upon and abused back then—they
were like, “Yes. You were a mooch, and you were down and out, and
you were always this and that. But you were always fun to be

was like, “Wow, I didn’t really realize that I was projecting
that out there.” So I’ve always felt that like if I was of one
or two varieties, I’m definitely more of the suicidal than the
homicidal variety as a human being. So if I’ve got stuff going on,
the hit is going to be on me, and I’m not going to try to take it
out on those around me. So maybe that kind of led into where “Hank”
is at, but it feels like a very unfair thing to do.

the same time, even when things are kind of down and out and bad,
there’s a certain delicious joy in that kind of melancholy and
still in the people around you. You can always still have a laugh.
So that’s what I liked about the show is all of that stuff rang
pretty true to me.”

More Terriers coverage next week!