Sunday, April 20, 2014

FX's Fargo: Their Own Private Minnesota

Allison Tolman and Shawn Doyle in Fargo, now airing on FX

It's not a sequel. It's not a spinoff or a remake. Maybe it's more like a reboot? Right now I'm thinking of Fargo, FX's new limited-run television series, as falling into the "inspired by" category. My favourite theory is that its story is a riff on the same "true story" which playfully (and apocryphally) inspired Joel and Ethan Coen's feature. It shares a universe, an aesthetic of darkly comic, casual violence, and perhaps an area code with the Coen brothers classic 1996 film of the same name, but there is little other explicit overlap. (However, careful fans might observe a mysterious briefcase the show's opening scene.) Still, television viewers tuning in will be reminded of the film by the big skies, the unforgettable North Minnesotan dialect and exaggeratedly rounded vowels ("aw geez", "you betcha!"), and the signature pacing and tone. There are significant risks in toying with a beloved and critically acclaimed movie on the small screen, but so far, with nary a wood chipper in sight, FX's Fargo has already begun to stand on its own snow-booted feet.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Other Hugh Bonneville: Twenty Twelve and W1A

Hugh Bonneville stars as Ian Fletcher in Twenty Twelve and W1A, on the BBC.

As Downton Abbey fans worldwide eagerly await the popular ITV period drama's fifth season, it is a good time to point viewers to W1A, a new BBC comedy series whose brief first season will conclude this Wednesday April 9. W1A stars Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville as Ian Fletcher, the new-minted Head of Values for the BBC. Bonneville is returning to a character made famous (at least for British audiences) on BBC's Twenty Twelve, where Ian Fletcher was Head of Deliverance for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Both series not also demonstrate Hugh Bonneville's talent in a contemporary setting – far removed from his gracious, and sometimes other-worldly turn as Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey – but also put Bonneville's quiet but immense charm and comic ability on display.