Non-Geek TV From The Geek Perspective: Fargo

Gabbing Geek What We're Watching

There’s a lot of TV out there, and some of it is a crime-solving anthology where the cast and setting change between seasons, allowing for recognizable movie actors to take a break and do some television without tying themselves down  for a long term project.

Uh, no, this isn’t about HBO’s True Detective.  I’m talking about the FX drama Fargo.


What’s the premise?

The basic concept is a different crime and cast for every season, with the tone derived from the Coen Brothers’ movie.  While the Coens are listed as executive producers, it is unknown if they have much of anything to do with the show itself, which is mostly the work of creator Noah Hawley.

What’s the appeal?

What sounded like a horrible idea actually worked out quite well.  There’s a lot of dark comedy involved here, and a lot of familiar faces, many known for comedy.  The show won a couple Emmys in the mini-series category, and turned out way better than it had any right to.  Seriously, someone thought a TV series set in the same universe as the movie Fargo was a good idea, but aside from a follow-up on what happened to the ransom money from the movie, it doesn’t really deal with the movie all that much.  It’s a weird show with lots of stuff going on that borrows themes more than anything else, while retaining something of the Coens’ dark sense of humor.

Anything stand out?

Plenty of things.

Billy Bob Thornton stars as a nearly unstoppable killer named Lorne Malvo.  He seems more like the devil than a human being at times, and he specializes in threats, tempting people to do bad things, and generally getting away with things.  He’s like Javier Bardem’s character from No Country For Old Men  made a turn and ended up in Fargo.

Martin Freeman plays Lester Nygaard, a sad sack of a man who finally lets some dark urges out.  But because he’s always been rather pathetic, he’s not really on anybody’s radar for the crimes he commits and then cowardly pins on others.  Freeman makes the man seem rather sympathetic at first glance, but the more you see him, the more you see him as the cowardly weasel he is.  He comes closest to William H. Macy’s character from the movie.

There’s a virtual all-star cast of comedic and character actors in all manner of roles, including Colin Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Oliver Platt, Comedy Central’s Key & Peale, Adam Goldberg, It’s Always Sunny‘s Glenn Howerton, Stephen Root, and Keith Carradine.  Season two, which hasn’t aired yet, promises Patrick Wilson, Ted Danson, Kirsten Dunst, and Geek Favorite Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan for a story set in 1979.

But the best of the first season’s cast may be relatively unknown Alison Tolman as a chirpy cop who keeps questioning the official version of the story and more than anyone keeps the case alive.

Any downsides?

Not many.  Anyone hoping for a final showdown between Tolman and Thornton may be a little disappointed.

Further, while the movie featured most of the cast speaking in those rather distinctive Midwestern accents, the show largely skips this with one noteworthy exception in the form of Freeman, whose normal British accent would be otherwise too distinctive.  His accent on the show sounds a little off, even for a show that at one point features a rainstorm of fish.  The others, if they use the accent, are a bit lighter on it so its less noticeable.

2 thoughts on “Non-Geek TV From The Geek Perspective: Fargo”

  1. I really want to read this article, but I cannot – we have the whole season DVR’d and we plan to watch it. I hope to come back to your overview and find out that is was good – or at least you thought it was good, because who doesn’t love Martin Freeman?


    1. It was good and it was worth it. I have hooked my brother-in-law on two shows so far. The first was Orphan Black. The second was this.

      Liked by 1 person

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