Movies and TV

Cheating on the Coens

Martin Freeman in Fargo by Matthias Clamer

Martin Freeman in Fargo (2014, FX)

I’d heard it said many times from many peripheral friends wearing tight pants: “Fargo — yes, the damn TV show — is brilliant… You need to drop everything and check it out!” I was always reluctant to believe these rave reviews, however, because a) I didn’t quite trust the taste of people who apparently thought they looked grand in tight pants, and b) I didn’t want to cheat on the Coen brothers’ 1996 movie. Fast forward to one year after the series debuted on FX when I finally broke down and watched the first episode as part of some work research, and I must say it was one of the most fun hours I’ve ever spent “working” and one of the best TV pilots I’ve seen in ages.

The show stays true to the dark humor coupled with bursts of extreme violence that made the Coen brothers’ movie so iconic, but it strays enough in story and in its entirely original cast of characters that I never get the sense I’m being unfaithful to the original. In fact, I think the choice to set the TV series in the fictional town of Bemidji instead of in the show’s namesake of Fargo is representative of the myriad spot-on decisions that creator/showrunner Noah Hawley made that allow the show to deviate from the original while helping viewers feel ever faithful to it. So, now I’m going to make like all my tight-pants-wearing compatriots and tell you, “Watch Fargo — yes, the damn TV show — and I promise you won’t feel like you’re cheating on Francis McDormand.” I, for one, am looking forward to a guilt-free marathon viewing this weekend of all the sardonic humor and  bloody bludgeonings the town of Bemidji has to offer.

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