'Terriers': Donal Logue, Michael Raymond-James play dogged private eyes

On an overcast day on a cliff above the pounding surf in the sleepy seaside town of Ocean Beach, Calif., just northwest of San Diego, FX's comedy-drama "Terriers" has pitched camp for the day.

It's an opportunity for stars Michael Raymond-James and Laura Allen to have a heartfelt, emotional scene, complicated by the steam-engine breathing and restlessness of co-star Buster the bulldog.

But for the close-ups, a sandbag with a leash attached sits in for Buster, and things move more quickly.

At this point, you could be forgiven for some confusion, since the show, premiering Wednesday, Sept. 8, is called "Terriers," and there's a dog in it, but it's a bulldog.

You might think, "Well, that'll be all explained in the pilot."

It's not, actually, but anyone familiar with the scrappy, feisty, dogged persistence of scruffy terriers would recognize those same qualities in the lead characters of the show, two hardscrabble, unlicensed private investigators.

And if you didn't know about what dog fanciers call "true terrier character," now you do.

At a press conference a month or so later, executive producer (with creator Ted Griffith) Shawn Ryan ("The Shield"), quips, "We were looking for the clearest, most understandable name possible, and 'Terriers' was what immediately popped out."

Sitting in his director's chair on the cliffside, star Donal Logue says, "I just assumed we would change it, and when (we) didn't, I'm so beaten down about it, I don't give a s---."

"We did add a scene in an episode where we try to make light of it a little bit," says Raymond-James, sitting near him. "It's a lot harder before it airs, when people ask, 'What are you working on?' and you say, 'A show called "Terriers," ' and they say, 'Is it a show about dogs?' "

It would spoil a plot point to explain how Buster the bulldog fits into all this, but what can be said is that Logue plays Hank Dolworth, a former cop who has lost his job, his wife and his good name.

He decides to take up the private-eye business, and his first hire is his best friend, Britt Pollack (Raymond-James), a former home burglary specialist who met his girlfriend (Allen) when he saw her picture after breaking into her home.

"I decided I was just going to steal her heart," Raymond-James says. "But I come clean about that. I cop to it, as it were. She forgives me. Yeah, she's a good girl." And for once, Raymond-James is playing a good-hearted guy.

"I'm usually black-hunk-of-coal-for-heart (guy)," he says.

"They're really deep friends," Logue says. "They hit it off when I was a cop, and he came in for a burglary charge. I knew that he was kind of a good guy, gently reminded him that he should do something else with his life.

"When I became a private eye after I got booted from the force, he's the first person I called, because I knew he was good at what he does."

"I got ninja skills," Raymond-James says.

"He's good at some nefarious things," Logue says.

"The thing that might subvert the P.I. genre in this," Griffith says at the press conference, "is that these guys aren't real interested in doing the right thing or getting to the bottom of things. They're just trying to get their a-- out of a sling half the time."

Says Logue, "I've always felt like there was some kind of a Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds,' a bit of that real wistful Brian Wilson thing, an aging beach thing. It's beachy, but there's an underbelly. There's a sadness to it, but at the same time, it's energizing.

"In the midst of what could be that ennui, Hank decides to say -- both of them together -- 'Screw it! Why not roll the dice? Why not get into stuff that we know is a little bit over our heads? What have we got to lose? Well, everything, but are we content with what we have?' "

In some ways, another star of "Terriers" is Ocean Beach, a rare Southern California coastal town not overrun by palatial mansions, upscale chain stores and looming luxury hotels. Ocean Beach looks like a place where a family not named Trump or Hilton might spend a weekend admiring the view from Sunset Cliffs.

"My mom lives here," Logue says. "My sister lives here. I grew up near here, so I've been hanging around here since 1975."

As to what it was like to be a red-haired, freckled Irish-American on a Southern California beach, Logue says, "You stick out like a turd in a punch bowl when you're young. I wasn't the hippest beach dude. Everybody, to me, was the 'Bad News Bears,' long, blond-haired kids.

"I know this part of the world well. It was kind of cool to come back."