"Terriers" canceled: "Subtle charm" fails again

One of the best surprises this summer was "Huge," a show with subtlety, charm and flawed characters. It won't be back for a second season.

One of the best surprises this fall was "Terriers," with subtlety, charm and flawed characters. It won't be back next season.

Yes, there's a trend here.

Maybe the shows failed to get viewers because they lacked the usual sleek, attractive central characters. "Huge" was set at a teen fat camp; "Terriers" had Donal Logue as a weary private-eye, showing the pain of his divorce, unemploynment and alcoholism.

Or maybe they failed because they are fairly subtle, in a crowded and noisy cable world. That's one of the thoughts that emerged today, when FX chief John Landgraf talked about the "Terriers" cancellation. Here's the story I sent to papers:



This is what you'd call a mixed
weekend. “Terriers,” the cable show, got:

– Another rave. A magazine put it at
No. 3 on its list of 2010's best TV shows.

– Canceled. The FX network won't
bring it back next season.

“There's a relatively poor
correlation between excellence and commercial success,” John
Landgraf, the FX president, said Monday. FX has found both with
“Rescue Me,” “The Shield” and “Sons of Anarchy”;
“Terriers” – a private-eye drama with bits of humor – missed
commercial success by a mile.

Consider the ratings for five dramas FX
has canceled: In total viewers (during their prime showing), they
ranged from 2.46 million for “Damages” to 1.53 million for “Over
There”; “Terriers” averaged 746,000. In ages 18-49, they went
from 1.6 million for “Dirt” to 1.1 million for “Damages”
(which is moving to DirecTV); “Terriers” had 509,000.

In short, “Terriers” had only half
the audience of other canceled shows. It dropped off 47 per cent from
its movie lead-in; then ratings fell another 16 percent during the

Why? Some people have blamed the awful
title and billboard campaign, which showed a snarling dog. Landgraf
granted that the show might have done better as “Terriers, P.I.,”
but didn't blame the billboards; they were only in New York and Los
Angeles, but “Terriers” failed everywhere.

“It was a little less edgy, a little
less sexy” than other FX shows, he said. “It had a subtle charm.”

And he doesn't see a lot of subtlety,
he said, “when I look at 'Jersey Shore' and 'The Kardashians' and
'Sons of Anarchy' and 'Walking Dead,'” all commercial hits.

(Shortly after he said that, the ratings arrived for the season-finale of "Walking Dead," a well-crafted and un-subtle tale about surviving amid zombies. Its main airing drew 6 million viewers, 4.1 million of them 18-49; that's eight times as many as the typical "Terriers.")


That doesn't mean he's abandoning
subtle shows. FX is bringing back “Justified” – with its slow,
droll dialog – and is introducing the understated “Lights Out.”

Those shows, however, have unique
concepts – a modern federal agent with a cowboy persona, a retired
boxing champion considering a comeback. “Terriers” had subtlety,
obscure stars (Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James) AND a familiar
concept. It drew many raves and few viewers.


– The finale of the 13-episode season
has its final scheduled FX showing Tuesday night at midnight
(technically, 12 a.m. Wednesday).

– Also, episodes are at