Simon & Simon was a buddy detective series set in San Diego that ran for eight seasons on CBS during the ’80s. Veronica Mars put a teenage girl in a noirish milieu and managed three seasons. High Tide also made three, partly by casting heartthrob Rick Springfield. And there are more than a few San Diego detective shows that never made it past one season: Grand Slam, Coronado 9, Sarge, Harry O… Terriers.
But it’s only that last one that regularly gets mentioned as revival material in the era of Peak TV. Co-creator Ted Griffin picked up the notion of a couple of down-and-outs investigating a wealthy man from the 1981 Jeff Bridges mystery Cutter’s Way. That was set in Santa Barbara; when it came time to find a home for Terriers, San Diego was cheaper. Craig Brewer, who directed the pilot (along with Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan), discovered the show’s spiritual home turf in Ocean Beach; at the time, Griffin’s knowledge of San Diego was limited to the Hotel Del, the zoo, and Del Mar. “Ocean Beach was a Bohemian, ‘Go fuck yourself, Starbucks’ neighborhood,” recalls Griffin, “which very much informed the series after the pilot.”
Once here, however, it didn’t take long for America’s Finest City to register. “We were in a building over ten stories high, shooting a scene for the pilot in an empty office space, and an airplane came in to land. It was so precariously close to the building that I stopped to look at it. That was my introduction to the San Diego airport, and that became the McGuffin for the first season” — a land-grab to build a new, less ludicrous place for planes to touch down. And when it came time to find a luxurious home for the fictional project’s developer, “we got a mansion in La Jolla, because the owner was, if not in jail, then in serious legal trouble for financial malfeasance. His wife — or maybe by that point, his ex-wife — was happy to rent out the house, just to make some cash that wasn’t getting seized by the federal government.” Naturally, the home’s views of the cove and Children’s Pool point were magnificent.
Along the way, Griffin worked with directors both nichey (John Dahl, Red Rock West) and not (Rian Johnson, The Last Jedi). “Rian got Star Wars off his episode of Terriers,” says Griffin, before continuing with, “That’s completely untrue, but let’s put it out there.”
He exploited the Prado’s architecture for a Hitchcocky tailing scene and got to pretend he ran the track at Del Mar while making a show that was “the closest of anything I’ve worked on to what I saw in my head or had in my heart. One of the few things I’ve really wanted to watch.” Season one endures on Netflix, and Griffin & Co. have raised their collective hand to say they’re willing to come back and make more. “If [Netflix CCO] Ted Sarandos reads this, I’d welcome his call.”