Fargo (TV) Review – How Does It Compare To The Film?

April 22, 2014 by  
Filed under CineBlog

With the word “cinematic” constantly being thrown around to describe television shows these days, it seems logical that TV would look to the world of film for ideas for new series. In a continuation of a recent trend, TV poaches another prominent film actor in Billy Bob Thornton for an adaption (but not really an adaption) of the 1996 Coen Brothers classic, “Fargo.”

Right from the start, it is important to note that this is not a direct remake or re-imagining of the story seen in ’96. It is, rather, a separate, limited-series that takes place in the same area of Minnesota, around the same types of people, with a similar mix of tone of the darkly funny and the violent. Sure, there are a few callbacks to the film. The logo of fictional town of Bemidji sports an image of Paul Bunyan like the statue seen in Brainerd in the film, there are plenty of “on account of’s” and “aw geez’s” and a certain scene in a later episode which fans of the film will instantly call back to the film.

As a pilot episode, “The Crocodile’s Dilemma” serves as a nice jumping off point for the series. We are introduced to Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) who is an insurance salesman who is constantly nagged upon by his wife. While he isn’t as frantic, funny and quite frankly as brilliant as William H. Macy was Jerry Lundegaard from the film, the characters are pretty similar in their construction. Freeman is pretty good here, able to portray Lester with a sense of built up frustration, but with a resistance to sticking up for himself. He occasionally has struggles maintaining the particular Minnesota accent, but its a problem shared with the rest of the cast who occasionally fade in and out of it. After a rather embarrassing run in with an old high school bully, Lester meets a drifter named Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) in the waiting room of a hospital. There, they have a conversation that leads to Lester’s life being turned upside down. It should be noted that Thornton is absolutely brilliant in his role as Malvo. He is sinister, cruel, calculated, and loves to stir the pot and mess with people. He is easily the best part of every episode, and especially fun to watch when he embraces an alter ego in Episode 4. While there is no real direct comparison to “Fargo” the movie, his character design is definitely more Peter Storemare than Steve Buscemi. What is impressive about the pilot episode is that it starts decently and unassumingly enough as a table setter and gets dark in a hurry. By the end of the episode, the audience is virtually blindsided with multiple brutal scenes in a row, setting forth the events of the rest of the season.

It is apparent by the 2nd or 3rd episode, however, that this is a massive cast of characters, and the show begins to feel a little overpopulated. We meet Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman), who is the Maggie Gunderson counterpart from the film, and a host of other characters ranging from a supermarket king played by Oliver Platt and a police officer from another area of Minnesota in Colin Hanks. Still, the most interesting storyline presented to us in the first few episodes is the interaction between Lester and Lorne, yet they are both off doing their own things (albeit some of them amusing) and hardly interact in the back half of the four episodes that I have seen. Of course, I’m sure that at some point during these 10 episodes, stories will intersect and everything will become central, but if the beginning of the series is any indication, there will be some detours along the way to a crash course conclusion.

With a similar tone, setting, character design, and of course, name, it is difficult to not compare the TV product to the film, which is vastly superior in every aspect. While you won’t find the continued police adventures of Maggie Gunderson, “Fargo” is more of a spiritual cousin of the film that will bring you glimpses into the humorous and sometimes frightening environment, but ultimately make you pine for the Coen Brothers classic. It may not be the best thing currently on TV, but Freeman’s and especially Thornton’s performance and an interesting set up have me intrigued enough to continue watching.

Judy Greer – Archer (TV)

June 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Interviews

TV fans have certainly seen Judy Greer around. From guest spots on live action shows like “Arrested Development,” “Two and a Half Men,” and “Californication” to the her unmistakable voice that is currently displayed in the FX animated show “Archer.” Though film fans might not know her by name, Greer has popped up in a lot of romantic comedies over the years, but more recently has been able to snag some really juicy dramatic roles in movies such as “The Descendants” and “Jeff, Who Lives At Home.”

At the first ever ATX Television Festival, I sat down with Greer to talk about “Archer,” geek out about talking to someone from “Arrested Development,” and to discuss her blossoming film career.

So I looked at everything you’re here for. Sounds like you’ve got a pretty busy weekend planned. Are you excited for the festival?

I’m excited for the festival because I think, not that I know of, there’s no other festivals about television. I think that television is kind of, well I don’t know, isn’t it kind of the most important medium? (Laughs) I mean, it’s kind of true. It’s free, most of it. So that was exciting to me. I love the projects that I’m here to talk about but I also have been, like all of us, watching television and why is there a million movie festivals and film festivals but only one TV festival?

That’s a great question. Regarding “Archer,” the show has really taken off. The ratings are great and it’s found it’s audience. What do you think makes it so successful to hit this audience that it’s now hitting?

I think it’s really smart and I think people are looking for smarter comedies. I think people like how raunchy, but like smart raunchy it is. Because it’s animated, [creator] Adam Reed can do whatever he wants. We can kind of say whatever we want. FX gives us so much leeway and Adam is such a brilliant writer. Then you have these cartoon people saying it and it’s not as horrible.

It’s what “South Park” has gotten away with for years.

Yeah, exactly. I haven’t even thought about that. So, I think it’s successful because of the script and the storylines and the comedy.

Your character in particular gets to push things pretty far. As an actress is it kind of freeing to be able to say whatever you want and FX lets you do whatever you want?

Yeah, I mean the last time I felt that way was on “Arrested Development,” which obviously was live action. But I mean, never has anyone ever let us just go as crazy as they let us. And it’s really fun to be in a room by yourself doing it, because you really can come up with all the craziest things and just go crazy. There’s no one watching you, there’s not a crew full of people that are silently judging you. So it does feel really freeing and really creative. And Adam’s so excited, always for us to come up with something better than what he wrote. And most of the time we don’t, but he’s the No. 1 at saying, “Yeah! Say it! Try it! Whatever!” So that makes it fun.

You just said something about being alone and recording. Obviously the way you make these TV shows are different from live action comedies, you have to record in a booth and everything. Do you find the same kind of chemistry with the cast that you do versus an ensemble live action cast?

No, but not in a bad way. I just literally see them two to three times a year at publicity events. We don’t all live in the same city and we don’t have a real reason to cross paths, except for that we genuinely like each other and when we do have these events and press and stuff that we get together for we’re like, “Ahhh!” but we don’t really get to visit because we’re doing work stuff. I think the chemistry is really great, but it’s not like if we were spending every day together. Although we’d probably hate each other.

That’s actually kind of interesting because to me, so much of the humor in “Archer” is really subtle. There’s a lot of pauses and people talking over each other.

Yeah, people can’t believe we don’t record it in a room together.

Does that kind of timing take a while to develop or did it just kind of come naturally. Or do you have people directing you?

I think its some of everything. I think some of it is natural to us, some of it is direction, and some of it is editing. They can do so much with our voices digitally now. And back to the chemistry thing, I was thinking, one thing that all of us have in common, the main members of the cast, is that we all have a similar sense of humor. And I think that’s why we all blend really well together. Because we all share the same comedy. I don’t know if it would work if one of the cast was really crazy. We all fit into this whole really well.

The show is coming up on Season 4. Is it something where you can make the show fast and cheap and go many seasons beyond or is it something that you think maybe has an end point in sight?

Well, I don’t know the answer to that question. I want to do “Archer” for as long as it’s as awesome as it is. And not to answer for Adam but I feel like he probably would feel the same way. He busts his ass, he writes every single script and he’s toast by the end of the season. So I want what’s best for “Archer.” I never want it to be one of those shows where it’s like, “Oh, it used to be so funny.” It’s so good that I want to preserve the goodness. I feel like Adam can do that and if he can, I want it to go on forever.

The one bad thing about TV is that some things go on way longer than they should.

I know and it’s really a bummer. And because Adam writes every single script, if he can keep doing that, (I want to do it) for as long as he can do it, because he’s brilliant.

I do have to ask…my favorite show of all-time is “Arrested Development.”

(Laughs)

Your character in particular, there’s so much memorability to that character. What was that experience like? I’ve never got to talk to anyone from that show before, so this is really exciting. Did you know while you were making it how important and special and unique it was?

Hmm…I didn’t. But I was only on like 5 or 6 episodes. The more prominent cast members…maybe they did. I don’t know, it was real lightning in a bottle, you know? I think it was a hard show to make because it was so new. Like the concept of it and the humor of it. So many shows that we love now, and I probably shouldn’t say this, I think derivative of that.

Oh yeah.

So I think that when you’re making something like that…oh also, no one was watching it! So like, we’re making this weird show and I don’t mean to lump myself in with the series regular cast because they are the heart and soul of the show. But they were making this show that was totally weird and totally different that people didn’t really support and no one watched. You know what I mean? It’s this crazy phenomenon that really finally caught on. And at the time, it was like the number one TiVo’d show. But that wasn’t giving us the ratings that we needed to make more. So that was a drag.

But there’s a second life though.

Yeah, we’ll see!

Is that something that you would jump at the chance to be a part of?

Dude…yes. Definitely.

That was a stupid question, wasn’t it? (Laughs)

No, not a stupid question but oh my God. In fact I was just at a party last weekend and I saw Portia [de Rossi] and we’re like, “Do you know anything? Do you know anything?” We’re excited if we can do it. I’m hoping I’m a part of it. I think I will be. But I never know until I’m sitting in the theater or watching it on television.

That’s what I’ve been saying for years. I won’t believe it’s back until I’m watching the opening credits.

That’s how I feel, too.

I wanted to just briefly touch on your film career. In the past year you’ve had some really good dramatic roles. “The Descendants” was great and I thought a really underrated performance in “Jeff, Who Lives at Home.”

Thank you, I really love that movie so much. I really, really love it.

It’s very good. As an actress, what was it like to be able to tackle these dramatic roles and not only that, but be alongside great performers who are giving great performances.

For me it was awesome because I don’t usually get the opportunity to play parts like that. So it was a huge compliment and then the actors I was working with…I’m always blown away by other actors. Whether it’s someone as famous as George Clooney or Susan Sarandon, down to someone whose name you might not know yet. I love actors and I love working with them. Sometimes it’s nice to work with people you don’t know because you don’t bring anything with you. You can be this whole new person. Not to say that I was approaching it in a method way, but it is fun to create this new Judy as well as creating the character with people. It helps on set because going to work people aren’t like, “Oh, you’re the funny girl, who’s the funny one, be funny!” because they didn’t really know me that way. It was cool. I was really thankful for the opportunity and hopefully it will give me a chance to do more of that. Although I don’t like to think of it as too dramatic because I always think all the comedic roles I have played could have easily had scenes like that. But it was great, and it was great to do it with both Alexander Payne and the Duplass brothers, who I hope to work for for a really long time. The Duplass brothers are a-ma-zing and like here they are gods. So anyway, it was kind of a career high, I have to say, thus far.