I Speak TV: Hooray, Unlicensed Detectives

Posted: September 9, 2010 in Jeff Holland, reviews, Threat Quality
Tags: , , , , , ,

Odd that two shows I really enjoyed this past week – one returning, one new – both involve unlicensed detectives. Let’s take them one by one and find what makes them worth a watch:

Bored to Death

Bored To Death feels a lot like an idea I might have had when I was 15 – “A novelist becomes a detective using skills gleaned from other detective books” – but even then would’ve dismissed as being a little too masturbatory and painfully meta.

And the pilot was exactly that. Throw in a couple of moments of severely fucked up ethics on the Jonathan Aimes character and I was pretty put off by the whole thing.

I gave it another shot on the urging of FoTQ Tad, and was pleasantly surprised. Because a couple episodes in, it started feeling like a 15-year-old’s concept for a show – in the best way. 

Once Bored to Death gets rolling, a lot of the “self-loathing New York artist-type” stuff that felt so clichéd and self-satisfied shakes loose, and you’re left with a kid’s goofy idea of how cool it would be to be a NYC writer/detective whose best friends are a comic book artist and an insane rich guy. Who go on adventures and genuinely seem to enjoy each other’s dysfunctional company.

The show seems to realize that it actually likes itself for who it is, without all the adulty pondering and pontificating (it’s amazing how quickly Ted Danson’s character turns from deep-thinking, “When you’re my age you’ll learn…” weed hound to childishly enthusiastic “Ooh, me too!” weed hound), and becomes far more of a joy to watch.

Recommended, both because it’s only like eight episodes and because the new season kicks up in a couple weeks.



I had no interest in watching Terriers, even though one of the actors played Rene on the first season of True Blood and was one of the better parts of that season, and the other is Donal Logue, an actor I always kinda like on shows I kinda don’t. It just seemed a fairly minor idea for a TV show – “Shabby, low-rent detectives” – without any real hook.

Then, mere hours before the premier, I learned Tim Minear (Firefly, Dollhouse, Angel, that show Drive nobody watched but me) was one of the writers, and that’s enough to get me to the pilot, at least.

At this point I should trust that FX generally greenlights shows for a good reason (well, dramas – outside of Always Sunny, Archer and Louie, its comedy track record is pretty spotty). And with Terriers, the reason is this: TV needs more shabby, everyman detectives, investigators without a peculiar skill (these guys aren’t exactly The Mentalist), or access to any resources (CSI and related shows).

It’s a subset of the detective genre that needs to stay alive just to bring some personality back into the genre on TV. And for that, Terriers is pretty great. The plot is involving and well-constructed (one lead flows logically into the next), the dialogue is clever without calling to itself (“I want to buy new towels.” “You want to be a drier person?” “I think, maybe.”), and Logue and Raymond-James are pretty instantly likable.

Also, I think if Logue were to trim his beard and start working out, he would be just about fantastic as Green Arrow. Warner Bros, get on that!

  1. Moff says:

    YES. Donal Logue for Green Arrow, absolutely.

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