Fargo and Other TV Fails

Last post I recorded my love/hate relationship with AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, and despite major problems with computer gibberish throughout the show, still found it interesting, engaging, and ultimately a show I would recommend.

Today’s main entry, FX’s Fargo (based on the Coen brothers movie with the same name), is another critically acclaimed show that I missed when it aired and which I’d been looking forward to finally seeing now that I’ve joined the ranks of the video streamers.

Sadly, I disliked it from the first episode and reached my breaking point in episode eight, which I stopped watching followed by removing the show from my Watch List.

The thing that broke me in episode eight was the casting of the comedy team Key & Peele as a couple of seriously bumbling FBI keystone cops. In general, the treatment of the cops in the series — as bumbling, stupid, and pig-headed — was a major turnoff for me.

That was a casting final straw, but literally just a straw that was just one more thing too much considering I was liking the show less and less the more I watched it.

Important Note: I have nothing against Key & Peele! I’ve never watched their show, but I know it’s popular and topical. I am looking forward to seeing Jordan Peele’s Get Out one of these days (I already know what the big spoiler is, but that’s fine — I’m not huge on not knowing except in cases where it would really ruin that first unknowing viewing, such as with The Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects).

What I object to is casting a comedy team as a comedy FBI team. Talk about breaking the narrative flow. Yikes! And it was the final straw in the whole “stupid cops” thing.

I’m not a fan of, what I call, pop-casting. I find it too much of a narrative mood breaker. The casting of Simon Pegg as ‘Scotty’ on the rebooted Star Trek is an example, especially since they use him for slapstick comic relief.

(But then I have nothing good to say about the rebooted Trek, and a whole lot of bad to say if anyone cares. Suffice to say it ain’t my Trek, and I find that after 50 years of being a fan, I’m just kinda over the whole thing. Doctor Who is much better, anyway.)

And speaking of bad casting (IMO obviously), one thing that put me off the show was casting Englishman Martin Freeman as Minnesotan Lester Nygaard, a central figure in season one.

W! T! F!

Another Important Note: I have nothing against Simon Pegg or Martin Freeman. I’ve very much enjoyed their work. Shaun of the Dead is my favorite zombie movie, and Sherlock is a beloved favorite series (possibly the best telling of the Holmes canon ever).

But Pegg ain’t Scotty, and, Hugh Laurie aside, I just don’t buy an Englishman playing an American. In this case, extra especially a Minnesotan. At least Greg House was just your basic American with who-knows roots.

But this was a huge casting fail for me, and put me off the series from the get go. (It’s also a little alarming what an excellent asshole creep Freeman can play. I hope it’s purely acting skill.)

A final casting note: Billy Bob Thornton is another main character, and he’s doing what he does so often and so naturally, but it was really of no account and didn’t save the series.

And then there was the writing — specifically the plotting.

Which I though was pretty awful.

So much of the character’s behavior seemed caricature, arbitrary, and very cliche. The dumb cops, the idiot kids, the slutty widow, the shrewish wife,… oh, my god, none of them were interesting to me.

And then there’s Deputy Molly Solverson (solver; ha, ha), obviously the analogue of Chief Marge Gunderson (from the movie), but without the qualities that made the latter so interesting and engaging. Molly was just kind of a dud.

She was taken off the main case, but told to solve the mystery of the man frozen in the woods. That was never really pursued that I saw, but it would have given her the leverage to pursue the case she was really interested in.

Also, there’s no way Lester’s brother gets charged with the murder. Any investigation at all would have made that pretty clear. And if the police chief was so into protecting Lester, wouldn’t he have also shielded the brother? Key plot points just make no sense given any thought at all.

Bottom line: Somebody thought the movie Fargo offered a neat idea for a TV series. That somebody was wrong.

It was a dumb idea to begin with, and the attempts to shoehorn what might have been an interesting series into a mold that never should have been re-used were, for me, fatal.

(I am not a fan of the modern tendency to want more of something, of endless sequels and reboots of old things.)


And as long as I’m ranting: Hulu (which has Fargo)!

Netflix manages to keep straight what I’m watching across all platforms (two TVs, my PC, and my iPad). My watch list is the same regardless of which platform I use.

Not so Hulu, which doesn’t even give me access to the “My Stuff” list on the TV app. It does have a watch list, which knows what I’m watching, but things I’ve added to My Stuff don’t show up on my TV until I actually start watching. Except sometimes they do; go figure.

It can also be really laggy when it comes to recognizing the next episode of something I’m binging on. I often have to go into the episode lists and pick the next unwatched episode.

And why the hell does it, on my iPad, think I have 19 unwatched episodes of Angie Tribeca when, in actual fact, I’ve watched them all, and the TV app knows this!

Pity Hulu has so many shows I do want to watch, because I wouldn’t be a customer of such lameness if it didn’t.

And, yeah, I hate it when that happens.


Next post, I promise, will be shows I really love! Just had to get these off my chest first.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

4 responses to “Fargo and Other TV Fails

  • rung2diotimasladder

    I had no idea that House was played by a British actor. Then again, I know very little about actors in general, so it’s not surprising. But anyway, wow. I can usually tell when someone’s faking an American accent.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Ha! Yeah, I know! Neither did I when I became a fan. Then I saw him on some talk show, and I was, like, WTF? One of those moments when reality seriously shifted!

      On a related note, Hugh Laurie is good friends and comedy partner with Stephen Fry, and I just watched Stephen Fry’s More Fool Me special on Netflix, which promotes his autobiographical book by the same name. It was pretty awesome; that guy is really something. I recommend it!

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Thanks for the recommendation! I’m in need of watching material. We’re sick of sifting through shows that stink.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        As so many of them do! I’ve been watching a lot of standup comedians on Netflix, and those have been mostly pretty good (if one likes standup, which I very much do). I also really liked A Stupid and Futile Gesture, which is an interesting (and a bit quirky) movie about the creation and success of The National Lampoon. I hadn’t realized how many of the original SNL cast came from TNL!

        There are many of the BBC Planet Earth series shows. Those are just gorgeous (and narrated by Richard Attenborough)! There’s also a good documentary on Tesla that I enjoyed.

        I don’t know if you’ve gotten to the two posts here that list what I’ve been watching, FTW: Netflix and So Much Television!. You might find something useful there (or not 🙂 ).

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