More than 15 years after earning the Coen brothers an Oscar, Fargo is getting a reboot, this time on television.
Early reviews of the pilot, which premieres tonight on FX, point to TV Fargo being an appropriate replacement for the dark, gritty, weirdly comic void left by True Detective and Breaking Bad.
The teasers for the show, along with a uniformly captivating cast that includes Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, and Saul Goodman Bob Odenkirk, suggest the same. But it's understandable if you find yourself leery about this new incarnation of the Coen classic.
The transition of source material from big-screen one-off to episodic television series has been done before to varying degrees of success, none of which meet the high bars set by the shows mentioned above. To understand where Fargo may exist in the greater TV landscape, let's look back on the good, the bad, and the ugly of film-to-TV adaptations.
The Good: "Friday Night Lights"
Movie premiere: 2004
Show run: 2006-2011
Metacritic Rating: 70 (film), 78 (show)
Why it worked: This wasn't just a sports movie broken into 22 episodes. Friday Night Lights took advantage of the television format, using the stretch run of the season to develop characters and expand the Dillon, Texas universe. The focus was on the relationships, including arguably the most realistic and compelling TV marriage ever. Also, Coach Taylor is a god, a molder of men. You'll wish he was your dad. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose with this one.
The Good: "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"
Movie premiere: 1992
Show run: 1997-2003
Metacritic Rating: 48 (film), 80 (show)
Why it worked: To make something as preposterous sounding as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" successful, it had to be handled with some level of wink-wink self aware humor, but also had to be treated with a care and vision that proved the people involved had totally bought in. No one was prepared to work that balance better than Joss Whedon, who wrote the original film and had even more creative control over the show. He was able to build an entire world that handled itself with just the right about of seriousness.
The Good: "M*A*S*H"
Movie premiere: 1970
Show run: 1972-1983
IMDb Rating: 7.7 (film), 8.5 (show)
Why it worked: For a show about the Korean War to last 11 seasons 20 years after the actual event, it had to have one hell of a cast, and M*A*S*H certainly did. The on-screen chemistry between the actors was so palpable, viewers felt as if they too were part of the military outfit. (It also helped that M*A*S*H existed in a time before cable, but for real, the show still holds up, as does Robert Altman's darkly hilarious film.)
Other "good" considerations: Highlander, The Outsiders, Soul Food
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