I’ve been in need of good telly lately. Rev. is fab, so is Nashville and The Good Wife, but I miss The Bridge, Line of Duty and Parks and Recreation. MasterChef doesn’t do it for me anymore. I can’t even be bothered to tune into the Great British Menu, despite loving Prue Leith and co on the judging panel dearly, because it all got too formulaic and silly last time round. The ‘brief’ is always silly, trumped-up and about as clear as a poorly executed consommé. After finishing and enjoying House of Cards (twice), I’ve been watching some ok TV series suggested by Netflix, but they all seem to be heavily dominated by men (Suits, Justified, Sons of Anarchy), and frankly, I have no interest in watching things in which women have been reduced to bits of skirt. The sexism of the 70s seems to be thriving in American drama, unless Netflix aren’t showing me the ones in which women have decent parts.
So, as a massive fan of the best fictional Marge on the planet after the blue-haired one, you might say I’m ripe and ready for the new TV series of Fargo (Channel Four, Sundays, 9pm). William H Macy was revoltingly, skin-crawlingly brilliant as hapless Jerry Lundegaard in the Coen brothers’ film, and I guess we all wondered if Martin Freeman would be as good – and could pull off a Minnesotan accent (and the Minnesotan accent – ya – you betcha -was such a brilliant feature of the original Fargo, it was almost a character in itself). Also, if anyone could make a good hash of a reworking of what was a frankly brilliant film.
Well, the good news is, it seems Noah Hawley can. It’s not exactly the same story as the film, it’s sort-of is, it’s in the same, cold-as-heck, snowbound ballpark anyhoo (actually filmed in Calgary, Alberta, not Minnesota, however). The characters share similarities/dysfunctions with those from the 1996 film but are also different.
It’s set in 2006. Billy Bob Thornton (sporting a fairly diabolical Spock-style haircut) arrives in town as the sinister, gloriously twisted Lorne Malvo, who meets Martin Freeman/Lester Nygaard (the William H Macy character, but this time an inept insurance rather than car salesman), in A&E after Lester has broken his own nose in a humiliating encounter with a man who bullied him in High School.
We’ve already learnt that Lester is an abject failure of a man – his wife torments and humiliates him at home – their rumbling, unstable washing-machine in the basement a metaphor for their doomed marriage.
The Billy Bob/Malvo (Malvo/malevolent?) character exudes ‘troublemaker’ from every unsettling pore. With just a few words, he beautifully shit-stirs into homicidal life the long-downtrodden spirit of weak Lester: “You’ve spent your whole life thinking there are rules. There aren’t…” It’s a very enjoyable encounter. It sets up the rest of the action beautifully – you almost can’t wait for the hammer to fall (literally).
So, much to my delight, it turns out Martin Freeman is terrific. The whole thing is often very funny, albeit in a sick and twisted way. I like the small details, such as the crocheted toilet roll cover in Lester’s bathroom.
I should point out Fargo is horrifically violent in places too. I like Allison Tolman as Molly Solverson (sort of based on the Marge/Frances McDormand character, but she’s not pregnant, she’s not the Chief, and I do still miss Frances McDormand to be honest).
And there are nine more episodes to look forward to.
Will I be watching? You betcha.
Posted by The Divine Bebe