Against Branding, Terriers Division -

Against Branding, Terriers Division


After canceling Terriers, FX President John Landgraf took the step of holding a conference call with critics to explain the show’s failure. This was unusual, but it’s necessary to maintain the network’s critical respectability: though he didn’t actually say much that was new, he managed to maintain the critics’ feeling that FX is a “quality” network and prevent a critical backlash against the entire network. This is crucially important, since FX has an uneven track record with original drama, and it wouldn’t take that much of a push for it to be viewed as the network that did Season 2 of Damages and makes most of its money off Two and a Half Men reruns. It needs to know that if it launches a new show, critics will take it seriously, and Landgraf is ensuring that by building a positive relationship with the press.

There’s not a lot to say about the substance of Landgraf’s remarks, most of which are studiously uncontroversial. Obviously he doesn’t apologize for canceling it, nor should he. He also doesn’t think the title or the marketing campaign made all the difference, and he’s probably right about that too.

I did want to call attention to how an argument that the show didn’t fit with “The FX brand” soon turns into something that resembles an admission that branding doesn’t matter a whole lot. First he says that research showed it wasn’t considered “edgy” enough for FX, but then he notes that the “subtle charm” of the show wouldn’t really fit in anywhere in the current pop culture climate:”I don’t know if subtlety is something the

American public is buying in droves,” he added. “When I look at ‘Jersey Shore’ and the Kardashians and ‘Sons of Anarchy’ and ‘Walking Dead’… I wouldn’t say that subtlety and nuance describes the most successful kind of pop content in America today.”

The big hit shows on most cable networks (and broadcast networks) tend to share certain characteristics; right now a lot of the big cable hits — the great ones and the bad ones — seem to be characterized by a certain over-the-top quality. (It’s never an absolute rule, or Mad Men wouldn’t be on the air today. But you have to wonder what would happen to a show like Mad Men if it were launched on a network with higher ratings expectations than AMC used to have.) So the issue with Terriers is not that it doesn’t fit FX’s brand, but that it doesn’t fit the brand of current television. This is probably true of many shows that fail; just as good marketing or a good title can only help at the margins, a show that’s unwatched on one network probably wouldn’t get that many more viewers on a network with a more appropriate “brand,” even assuming there is one.

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Against Branding, Terriers Division

  1. This show was incredibly underrated. It wasn't over the top, but I found it extremely witty and clever. With over the top antics being so common I appreciated a show where you could really get a feel for the characters and their passion versus the extremes that some shows try to put in their plots. Reality shows are ruining TV and I wish shows like this got a second chance.

  2. It was too good for television. That's probably all you can say. It's a sad commentary on society, but people don't want "clever" or "subtle" or "witty." They want Snookie, Dancing with the Alleged Stars, and the antics of the Kardashian clan. They want over-the-top nonsense, with showy musical numbers! They want zombies and sexually promiscuous doctors. Genuine human drama? Great stories with great dialogue? No, thanks. That'll make our brains hurt.

  3. Terriers was a fineand wonderful show that asked its viewers to have more than a double digit IQ.

    I just finished watching the Xmas episode of Glee with my 10 year old daughter. I didn't say anything because I know she enjoys it, but a show like this is typical of the "drama" that succeeds. Syrupy, pandering , a Xmas miracle and everyone learned a little something. On the other end of the spectrum – 2 and 1/2 Men. Or that wonderful family show, Dancing with the Stars. Remember one of its early family friendly stars- Kim Kardashian ? How did she become famous?

    I guess Terriers was too subtle for a nation of idiots. Donal Logue, Michael Raymond James, Shawn Ryan, Ted Griffen – I can't imagine how they must be feeling now.