It’s a sad fact of life that, far too often, excellent TV shows get yanked off the air while terrible ones linger on for years. The 2010 season hasn’t been particularly good in terms of newly-premiering shows. One of the few bright spots was ‘Terriers’ on FX, which just wrapped up its first season last week. The show was terrific, and had really built up some interesting plotlines by the end. Unfortunately, the ratings just weren’t there, and now FX has announced its cancellation.
In situations like this, it’s tempting to blame the network – for not standing by a quality drama, for not promoting it well, for being too impatient and not giving it a chance to build an audience, etc. But in this case, I really don’t think any of those apply. FX did right by the show and promoted it as well as any of its other series. The network has a very good track record for sticking with shows it believes in, and recently renewed ‘Justified’ for a second season despite so-so ratings. For whatever reason, viewers just weren’t interested in ‘Terriers’. It premiered poorly, and only slid further as the season wore on.
I feel like I didn’t help any. Although I loved ‘Terriers’ since it premiered, I never got around to talking it up much in this blog. I kept meaning to, but scheduling issues interfered, and I just never had a chance to write up any episode recaps before the following episode aired. Yet somehow I found time to write about a stupid show like ‘The Event‘, which isn’t even a fraction as good or interesting as ‘Terriers’.
In a press conference following the announcement, FX General Manager John Landgraf sounded downright heartbroken about having to make the decision. Here are some choice selections from TVSquad’s coverage:
When it came to the ratings for ‘Terriers,’ Landgraf said they were just so bad that a relaunch wasn’t a realistic option (especially given that, in the network’s view, the original marketing of the show wasn’t the problem). In the show’s primary airing on Wednesdays, it was getting 509,000 viewers in the 18-49 demographic. By comparison, in their first seasons, ‘Dirt’ got 1.6 million in the same demographic, ‘The Riches’ got 1.4 million and ‘Damages’ got 1.1 million.
“We wish there was a perfect intersection between all that is good and all that is successful,” he said. “But the reality is that there’s a relatively poor correlation between excellence and commercial success. And what we said at FX all along was, we intend to find the points where those two things intersect.” In its “at bats” over the past decade or so, Langraf noted, FX has a batting average of about .500, in terms of shows that were successful and those that weren’t. “And we’re going to keep swinging. We’re going to keep plugging. We’re going to renew the shows that hit both those targets and keep them on the air for a long long time and the ones that miss either one of those targets, we’re going to move on.”
Finally, Landgraf sounded genuinely pained that ‘Terriers’ didn’t make it. “I just couldn’t find any way, from a business standpoint, or quantitatively, to figure out how to do a second season of this show. And that’s really unfortunate, because I love it,” he said. Even he found it hard to stop using the present tense.
I suppose it’s some small consolation that the season finale ended in a good spot. While I wouldn’t say that the show had closure (most of the storylines clearly had a lot of room left to grow), the final scene was bittersweetly open-ended. Technically, it was a cliffhanger, but it still feels like as good a place to leave the characters as any.