Hollywood has a long and storied history of running the well dry. Movie studios are as shameless as ever these days, with every blockbuster movie seemingly having one or two substandard sequels and any decent movie older than ten years is subject to a brutal remake. But honestly can they really be blamed? People still eat this shit up. Did I watch Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 last Sunday? Uh no… definitely didn’t watch the entire movie start to finish, no way… The greed extends beyond just sequels and remakes, however, with everyone’s favorite cash grab – television adaptations! How could the world ever forget such classics as Dumb & Dumber: Animated, Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, and the CLASSIC Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles? Don’t worry, folks. I’m here to tell you that not all TV adaptations are creative black holes. For proof, look no further than the outstanding FX series – Fargo.
Brothers Ethan and Joel Cohen (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, True Grit, No Country for Old Men) wrote and directed the “original” Fargo back in 1996. The brilliant drama/crime film is widely regarded as one of the best of the decade, even all-time by some. The movie centers around a fake kidnapping gone wrong, and a pregnant police chief who dutifully cleans up the mess. Unlike similar moves in the past, Fargo’s unique and largely untapped Minnesota-based setting and unlikely hero brought new light to a saturated genre which typically employed a prototypical big-city gangster aesthetic. The film took home multiple Academy Awards and became an instant classic.
Fast forward 16 years later, the Coen brothers shop around the idea of a television series based on the movie and end up hiring a relatively unknown lead writer, Noah Hawley, to be the creator of the new project. I remember when I first heard they were making the TV series, and I was pretty apprehensive. I’m a big fan of the original and, while I respect FX for their programming, didn’t really see how well it was going to work that many years later. So I decided to hold off, thinking I’d check it out eventually, maybe… But alas, due to the incessant urging of one of my friends and heaps of high praise from various media outlets, I could ignore Fargo no longer.
Fargo (the show) is an anthology, meaning each season has a different story line and characters. But despite the rotating cast from each season, the overall vibe remains the same. Similar to the film, each season usually revolves around a down-on-their-luck character caught up in a bad situation, and the fallout from their poor decisions. It’s a truly compelling show, for a variety of reasons. First, its a pretty dark show – a lot of the crimes and “bad guys” are pretty disturbing in nature. Credit has to be given to Hawley and the Coen Brothers (who are still involved with the project, serving as executive producers) for juxtaposing friendly Minnesota conventions with the gruesome subject matter found in the show. Like the movie, the show plays up the “Minnesota-Nice” stereotype, highlighting the politeness and aversion to conflict found in the Northern states. The production value on the show is extremely high, with impressive shots making Minnesota/North Dakota look like the Wild West (albeit with a lot more snow).
With the Coen Brothers still involved, obviously the writing is going to be stellar. In typical Fargo fashion, the story line twists and turns and brings various characters together in unexpected ways. The script is a masterpiece of suspense, mystery and dark humor, which has helped the show has garnered several awards including several Emmys and Golden Globes. Also, there is MAJOR star power with the casting. Billy Bob Thornton kills it as the Season 1 bad guy, Kirsten Dunst and Ted Danson are among the notable cast members of Season 2 and Ewan McGregor is currently crushing Season 3 as two separate, twin brother characters. Its binge-worthy television at its finest, people! Do yourselves a favor and get over to FX On-demand and run through these ASAP.
Season 3 of Fargo is currently airing on FX every Wednesday at 9pm CT
Photo Credits- FX, Spotlightreport.net, MPR News