Based on the world of the 1996 movie of the same name, Fargo is a 10-part mini-series that premiers tonight (April 15th) on FX. Staring Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman and Molly Solverson, the mini-series features all new characters and revolves around another true story of crime, murder and deceit, taking place in the same small, frozen town as the film did. Based off of Joel and Ethan Cohen’s movie, Noah Hawley created the story for the series that is intended to embody the same quirks and intricacies as the movie. The first seven minutes of the first episode were released the other day by FX (link at bottom of page) and showed exactly what the network meant when they said, just like the movie. The show opens on a deserted, frozen highway with a lone car driving at night. The music, cinematography and lighting has the exact same tone as the movie. This Fargo, on FX, has the same dark humor, funny accents and absent-minded characters like the original and may turn out to be better than the movie.
Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) is a quiet, unconfident, simple-minded insurance salesman who is verbally insulted by his wife and kids on a daily basis. After failing time and again to be the man his wife wants him to be, he has a chance encounter with Lorne Malvo, played by Billy Bob Thornton, who is a dead-panned, darkly disturbed hit-man with no conscious and a twisted sense of humor that offers Lester the chance to change his situation. Like the movie, this meeting sets off a chain reaction that leads to brutal deaths, abductions and strange occurrences that only sheriff’s deputy Molly Solverson, played by newcomer Allison Tolman, has the wherewithal to fully understand what is really going on. Her boss Bill Oswalt, played by the hilariously blunt Bob Odenkirk, gets in her way and the only other cop that offers to help is from another town and is afraid to say too much after his own unfortunate encounter with Lorne Malvo.
The series is splattered with great actors that fill in the rest of the story so perfectly that the Cohen brothers must be kicking themselves over not including them in the original movie; although many of them would have been way too young at the time. Some of the best scenes of the series, like the movie, are when there are few words spoken, but volumes said through only looks and expressions as inhabitants of the town come across some of the strange, and graphic, incidents that take place and can only utter an “oh geez” as they look on with horror. The series starts out with a bang and is so well done the viewer may forget they are watching a TV show as the shots are reminiscent of an Oscar season movie. Like the original film, the series itself starts out fast, but quickly slows down, along with the actions and accents of the characters, till about the fourth episode. Similar to True Detectives on HBO, some viewers may be turned off in the early running by the unusual and plain dialogue and slower mid-western pace, but those who stick with the show will be happy that they did. The original, a cinema classic, was only 96 minutes long and left audiences wanting more from this strange town, which is, amusingly, the complete opposite of the real town in North Dakota. Luckily for viewers, Fargo landed on FX and not some other network that would not give them the free reign to explore ever aspect of this spiraling story, and over a 10-week span, fans may be referring to the series as better and more complete than the original movie.
Long time producer Warren Littlefield wanted to go through the MGM film archives and find movies that he thought would be suitable to re-make as a TV series/mini-series. The first on his list was Fargo. He employed Noah Hawley to write the script for the show. After talking with the Cohen brothers, who serve more as consultants than anything else, Mr. Hawley created the new characters and story that takes place in the same town as the movie. Since this is an anthology mini-series there will be more seasons, but the characters and stories will be different; like True Detectives and American Horror Story. The script, according to insiders, was one of the best around and was the driving factor to attracting the high level talent in the show. What makes this all fun is that the series and the movie will still work together and independently. The town serves as the backdrop and is what links the two together, but they are two very different stories. Since this is an anthology, the other seasons will not necessarily take place in chronological order and Mr. Howley said they may travel back to the ’50’s for another season, or set the show in present day. This affords the creators and fans an opportunity to explore and further explain aspects from the movie and past seasons, combining both mediums to create one sprawling epic.
The Cohen brothers have done little, to zero, press for the show, but they did give FX their blessing and are expected to receive Executive Producer credits, but have little involvement. The producers have hired some of the best TV directors in the business to work on the show. Their past credits span a wide range of shows from Breaking Bad to Californication to Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and all have proven track records of directing fresh, exciting episodes that push the boundaries of TV. FX’s president, John Landgraf, should be given credit for the success of the show as well. Mr. Landgraf has proven time and again to give his show’s creatives more freedom than any other cable network and has helped to push the boundaries of what a television show can be. Not only does this series feel and look like a movie, but because FX is the network, they are able to get away with a lot more and there are also small perks like a 90 minute premiere episode and possibly more extended episodes to come; FX often allows shows like The Americans, and especially Sons of Anarchy, to air multiple 90 minute episodes per season and has no problem extending episodes five or ten minutes to allow the show to adequately tell the full story. With a progressive network behind them, the Cohen Brother’s blessing and a top-notch cast and crew, Fargo has all the ingredients to be TV’s best new show and could easily become better than the, already great, original film.
Airing on FX @10pm every Tuesday night
Commentary by Chris Dragicevich
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