'Terriers' and 'Hellcats' premiere reviews: Which one did you like? Which did you think was a dog?

Terriers and Hellcats both premiered on Wednesday night, shows that probably have mutually exclusive audiences. I can’t imagine that anyone who got caught up in Hellcats‘ tale of a hotsy law student who turns to cheerleading to pay the bills also dug the grungy pair of private eyes who are the antiheroes of Terriers.

It’s tempting to simply praise Terriers and dump on Hellcats. After all, Terriers has the cooler, hipper — sorry, we’re in for some cat-and-dog turns of phrase in this post — pedigree: The show is co-created by The Shield‘s Shawn Ryan and the writer of Ocean’s Eleven, Ted Griffin. Hellcats creator Kevin Murphy was the head writer for Desperate Housewives’ first seasons, and a slew of forgettable shows ranging from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show to Martial Law. Murphy’s credits aren’t anything to sneer at; it’s just that they don’t possess the cool factor of Ryan and Griffin’s.

There’s a lot to like about Terriers, starting with its stars. Donal Logue is one of those TV familiar faces whom some of us are always glad to see (although not enough of us to have ever given him a hit show), while Michael Raymond-James made an impact during his time on True Blood. Put ‘em together as the least slick detectives to squint in the California sun since Barnaby Jones, and you’ve got a charming show. Here’s the thing, though: I found myself straining to convince myself that the dialogue was more clever than it actually was (the brain kept insisting, “Come on, the guys who did The Shield and Ocean’s Eleven must just churn out buckets o’ hard-boiled wit, right? Right?”) and it’s basically a genre show, a detective series, a TV form I love but must concede is always threatening to go stale.

Hellcats is, in a completely different way, a genre show as well — a poor-scrappy-kid-triumphs-over-the-snobs story, High School Musical/Glee division.

There’s no point in thinking there’s anything intrinsically superior about Terriers over Hellcats just because Hellcats seems to exist primarily to show off a lot of attractive young people jumping around strenuously. Hellcats‘ most prominent star is Aly Michalka, a talented graduate of the Disney school of TV and music (she was half of the sister duo Aly & AJ, and they put out more good music than you might imagine). As Marti, the scrounging-for-tuition law student, Michalka comes off more like…a cheerleader, all glowing blond hair and energetic pluck.

As a result, there was no dramatic arc to what Marti went through in this week’s premiere episode. It was impossible to buy her as a law-school grind, let alone the “goth” that she’s called by her costar Ashley Tisdale’s Savannah. There’s nothing “goth” about Marti: She glows with radiant confidence. It was but a tiny narrative leap to see Marti try out for the cheerleading team (she gets scholarship money if she makes it) — far from enduring a prickly, Bring It On-style tussle, Marti fits in just fine, fast.

If Hellcats succeeds, it will be because she has some good back-and-forth chemistry with Tisdale; the show has real zip when it comes to dialogue. But the whole series looks like a CW misfire: It’s too perky to appeal to the network’s Gossip Girl/America’s Next Top Model fan base of jaded teens and young adults. Hellcats plays more like an ABC Family entry.

What bodes well for Terriers and poorly for Hellcats is the future. Terriers is setting up some interesting story lines, foremost among them that of Logue’s Hank — a recovering alcoholic whose sobriety is threatened by the yearning he feels for the wife who’s left him (she’s well played by Kimberly Quinn).

I’ll be coming back to Terriers to see how Hank fares. Will you be tuning in to Hellcats to see how Marti adapts to cheerleading? Did you watch either of these shows? Is it possible that some of you watched both? Let me know, please.

Follow: @kentucker

Comments (115 total) Add your comment
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  • Bee

    hellcats was what i expected. some parts decent, others bad. overall unspectacular, but mildly okay. i’ll give it a few more episodes since most CW shows get better after their pilots (gossip girl and vampire diaries especially). aly michalka is pretty good in the lead role. and her super curly hair is fun to look at. ashley tisdale was alright. the other girls (coach, mean black-haired girl) were annoying.

    • JBD

      Yeah, I agree. Hellcats was just okay, but I’ll give it another try. Usually I jump up and down after a CW pilot and that’s when I know it’s amazing. Like One Tree Hill or Supernatural. I’m just waiting for one of those to roll on by. Hopefully Nikita will be it.

      • Nemo

        I know! I keep waiting for that moment where I’m just awed at the characters and plot of a pilot, much like One Tree Hill, Heroes, and Supernatural. Did anyone else think they were trying to make Marti like Peyton? It did not happen. Peyton was much less pretentious and way more likable!

      • kat

        Jodi- I totally thought they were trying to make her like Peyton- the broody cheerleader, I was hoping to like her. But then her friend was psycho Derek, so that was weird, and then Q was there and the principal from Buffy, and it got kind of confusing. lol. But I did watch Terriers as well. I liked it. But I agree it was kind of predictable. I loved both leads, of course Donal Logue is the guy you root for, kind of both in real life and character. I will try both again and probably stick with Terriers, but as I recall, Hellcats was in a spot where I think I had a bunch of conflicts, so probably not that so much on a regular basis.

    • squirlgirl

      Hellcats was the most accurate portrayal of cheerleading we’ve ever seen by “Hollywood”! They showed the strength, commitment (3 hour practices are real), and effort it takes to be good. Even the skills (tumble – fulls & front thrus; stunts – cupies & scorp double downs; pyrmids – 2 1/2 high waterfalls; and tosses – tuck baskets)were accurate for the college level. My daughter (level 4 all-star cheerleader) and I were very impressed.

  • Jeff C

    Hellcats bombed! It was really bad. I will be a Terrier fan. I feel bad for the CW who put so much publicity in Hellcats. This show is the wrong show for the CW. It belongs on the Disney Channel or Nick channel.

    • Jim

      With dialogue like “You want her head in your lap”, Hellcats definitely doesn’t belong on Nick or Disney.

    • Liz

      Hellcats. The brunette girl who got in the slap fight with the lead reminded me of the Buffy Bot from BTVS. Also how old is this cheerleading squad? Their extra casting department needs to look for college aged people not people who have wrinkles.

      • Kris

        I’m in college and I can tell you, most people from my program range between 21-28. Some people dont go to college right out of high school.

      • Liz

        Are the people on your college cheerleading squad in their late 20’s. I bet not. Most older students have jobs, families, lives outside of school and wouldn’t participate in such a commitment heavy “sport” Not many of those cheerleaders could pass for under 30.

  • Daniella

    Hellcats wasn’t that bad. But again it wasn’t that good. It was a little melodramatic for me. And frankly not a show that is going to keep me wanting to come back for more. But I will watch it again next week to see if it will get any better.

  • Rebecca

    I will definitely check out both. I like the more intelligent shows but I’m also a college-age girl who loves a bit of (extremely) light and fluffy nonsense.

    • Bo

      Hellcats is more like stodgy and lumpy nonsense. I really, really wish it were better, if only for Tom Welling’s sake, but dayum it stunk!

  • Bo

    What was Tom Welling smoking when he thought this would make a good show?! Embarrassingly bad.

    • Brian

      He said in an interview that he liked the story–“how much would you give up to accomplish your dreams?”

      • Fisher

        Yeah but…what is she giving up? It’s not like this girl has to suffer or anything.

  • Gabriella

    I agree that Hellcats wasn’t good. It makes me sad because I am a fan of some the actors who were cast in this show. But unfortunately it just didn’t work for me. Terriers kept my interest more.

  • Cass

    I hated the first few minutes of Hellcats (with all the cattiness towards cheerleading – I wouldn’t be a cheerleader but I’m not going to knock people who are), but once we got past the “football groupie” thing, it was more enjoyable to watch.

    I don’t watch shows on CW for in-depth, soul-searching, journeys. Their shows are similar – pretty/handsome young people, overdramatic situations that resolve with a nice pretty bow at the end.

    I think Hellcats *is* probably more in line with ABC Family fare – like Make It Or Break It or Greek. But let’s face it – CW shows are not to be taken seriously. Gossip Girl? Vampire Diaries? Ugh.

    • Laurin

      You’re giving Vampire Diaries an Ugh?? Seriously?

      • Jason

        Ya I’d give Vampire Diaries an Ugh too.

    • kate

      yeah Vampire Diaries is the best. By FAR the best show the CW has had since it was the WB. Don’t hate.

  • bruno

    pass and pass…
    but if it’s not too late kt, i was wondering if you could write us a little soemthing up about what new shows you’re looking forward to watching this season…i need to start setting my dvr and there’s so much to sort through…any thoughts?

  • Eric

    I really wanted to love Terriers because I’m a big fan of Donal Logue so it would be great to see in on an excellent show. But unfortunately I was sort of meh on the first episode. It’s seems like a well acted show but I feel like I’ve already seen all this before. FX’s shows tend to be somewhat out of the box and usually push some boundaries but I found this episode to be riddled with cliched characters and overused plot devices. A disheveled recovering alcoholic who can’t get his life together and is still pining for his ex-wife; that’s been ripped off from several shows including FX’s own Rescue Me. His non-committal partner with a girlfriend that wants to settle down and have a baby. A well-respected business man who secretly having an affair and stealing money through a shady business venture. All of this is a little too bit by the numbers. I’m hoping there’s some kind of bait and switch in the works because otherwise I might have to give this show a pass.

    • Sarah O

      I’m a big fan of Donal Logue too, and I really loved Michael Raymond-James as Rene on True Blood. I’m going to give this show a few more chances to see if it improves a little — it wasn’t bad, and the acting was great. But it was a little by the numbers. Maybe they just had to set up the premise, and now they can start flying?!

    • Allan

      I agree and am disappointed that Shawn Ryan couldn’t come up with something better. Even though the acting was pretty good, it wasn’t remarkable except for the ex-wife. I think I’m going to pass on this one.

  • jayma

    if i took a shot everytime they cut to aly riding furiously on her bicycle i would have been dead by the end of the episode.

    • Laura

      hahaha so true!

  • Dave

    Hey Ken, seeing as how my TV tastes are quite often in line with your own, would you mind giving us a heads up on what you think are the best new shows of the season? I don’t really have a lot of time to invest in too many new shows. Every fall, I have to try my best to choose new shows wisely. So I was hoping you could let us know what shows are the most worth while and which are likely to find an audience and not be canceled. I’d love to hear your opinions since a ton of new shows have their premieres in the next few weeks. Maybe like a top 5 new fall series list would be cool.

    • Dave

      Just saw the article about this week’s cover with the fall TV preview including your picks for 5 best new shows, Ken. Can’t wait to see the magazine and get the info on your picks! Thanks!

  • cheryl

    tried to watch Terriers,just couldn’t get into it

  • shelby

    Just biding my time for Nikkita. That show looks awesome and Maggie Q is SMOKING.

  • Ken Tucker Blows

    Ken is an Idiot.

    • Jaded

      Ken Tucker kicks ass!

    • j

      Ken is an idiot, but that doesn’t mean he’s not right.

    • Kamron

      At last, smeooen comes up with the “right” answer!

  • AustiNights

    This show was definitely laced with kryptonite, because it was killing me in super ways. I think it was miscast for the most part, the scenes were just not doing it and the attempts at snarky were at best – pathetic. I agree with a lot of the other comments people made. This show won’t make it into October. I think CW needs to see if they can get more Life Unexpected episodes rolled out in time for this replacement.

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