Tomorrow night FX premieres a new series based on the Coen brothers' 1996 film, "Fargo." What does this have to do with the Timberwolves? Nothing, other than the Minnesota connection. But in keeping with CH's proud (?) tradition of debating everything from what constitutes authentic blues music to best Korean restaurants in Saint Paul to what's wrong with society, I thought I would see if there is interest in a weekly "Fargo" thread. If not, I'll pretend this post never happened.
I have very mixed feelings about this adaptation, so let me review the pros and cons.
REASONS WHY "FARGO" WILL BE NOT THAT BAD
- The Coen's approved this project, but wisely let the creative team take the ball and run with it. The film version of "Fargo" is one of my favorite flicks and Joel and Ethan are on my very short list of best directors (if you have to be a homer, it's good to be from the land of Coens, Prince, and Dylan).
- FX has an excellent track record under network president John Landgraf. He's the guy who told standup comedian Louis CK that he could create a comedy series and have full creative control - but with a minimal budget. The result: "Louie," which thankfully returns next month after taking 2013 off. See also: "Justified," a series that may not be quite at the level of Breaking Bad/Mad Men, but is more entertaining and can do tension, humor or depth with the best of them; "The Americans," a series really hitting its stride now in its second season, dark and complex; "Archer;" "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia;" "Wilfred." Diverse, yet of a piece.
- Billy Bob Thornton. What an unusual career. Basically a character actor who became a movie star and tabloid staple before settling into a quieter career of interesting work. He was "The Man Who Wasn't There," which I consider to most underrated Coen brothers' film. "Sling Blade," "Monsters Ball," "Primary Colors, and so forth, he always brings something interesting to his roles. The rest of the cast is impressive as well - including Bob "Saul Goodman" Odenkirk, Oliver Platt, Keith Carradine, Martin Freeman, and Colin Hanks.
- Limited series are the new "thing" in television. American Horror Story and "True Detective" are exemplars of this trend. Don't aim for open ended dramas that have the ability to be renewed indefinitely, but create a work where you know when and what the endpoint will be, and get there without padding out the hours to 22 or 26 or more. "Fargo" will last 10 episodes (like HBO's "TD"), which is the sweet spot between miniseries and regular series. What will happen if it gets good ratings? I don't know, but at least this season's story will have had closure, regardless.
- The promos look intriguing; off kilter, tense, but without revealing too much.
REASONS WHY "FARGO" WILL BE NOT THAT GOOD
- Yah, soooo... my main reason for trepidation is will the humor of the Minnesota accent be used like a sledgehammer or like an artist's brush? I, for one, was not insulted by the accents in the original "Fargo." I know plenty of people who sound like that and wish my own accent hadn't been worn away by years in DC and LA. Regional accents add color - and often humor - to scads of films and programs. Boston, Brooklyn, Texas, Valley Girl, Harlan County ("Justified"), Da Bears, etc. But because our dialect has not been mined as thoroughly as more populated areas, it's "funnier." Will this series find the balance of fun dialog without going cartoonish?
- it was not filmed in Minnesota. It wasn't even filmed (ok, electronically captured) in Fargo. It was produced in Calgary. Because Money Grab.
- My big research paper in grad school at Flynning Syracuse was to review the history of television series that had been adapted from feature films. Now, as in baseball, there are more misses than hits on TV. But I found these adaptations had a worse than average track record, despite notable successes such as "MASH" or "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Now, times change, and more than ever entertainment properties are based on existing properties because that's an easier sell than something original. But - without really thinking about it deeply or even Googling a bit - there don't seem to be many recent examples of successful transitions from the big screen to the not-as-big screen(s). One hurdle is the TV casts usually can't replicate the chemistry and magic of the original. At least with "Fargo," there is reason for hope, as they created an entirely new story, rather than cast Valerie Bertinelli (love her!) as Marge or some such.