'Fargo' has come to UK television screens, but can critics separate the series from the film?
Last night UK viewers got their first look at ‘Fargo’ on the small screen as the series debuted on Channel 4. Based on the Coen brothers' 1996 movie of the same name, many didn't know what to expect from the black comedy starring Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton, but as it happens the critics seem to have been pleasantly surprised.
Martin Freeman stars as Lester Nygaard
‘Fargo’ the TV series opened much like the movie as “This is a true story” came up on the screen. It of course isn’t a true story and neither was the movie. What the film and series have in common is the small town Minnesota setting which brought back memories of the 1996 movie to TV viewers. Then there’s the characters, ‘The Office’ and ‘Sherlock’ star Martin Freeman plays Lester Nygaard, the series version of William H Macy’s character. Billy Bob Thornton is the menacing villain who corrupts Nygaard and Allison Tolman is the series’s Marge, but not pregnant.
Critics were a little apprehensive at first, probably because the film is so loved and well remembered. But quickly they learned to adapt to the new ‘Fargo’ and appreciate it as a stand alone piece of television. Writing in The Guardian, Sam Wollaston said, “There's something almost dreamlike about the experience of watching it. Like revisiting a favourite old childhood haunt; a funfair, perhaps, because the original Fargo was so joyful.” He later added, “It could have been a terrible idea to return, but it's not, because it's all coming flooding back, making you remember just why and how much you once loved it.”
Billy Bob Thornton in 'Fargo'
Much like the film, ‘Fargo’ episode one was funny in the darkest possible way and violent in the most grotesque. As Ben Lawrence from The Telegraph writes, “. The rulebook has been torn up to make something creatively bold that is propelled by an essential weirdness.” Of course the real driving force behind the series is the lead performances with Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton earning particular early praise. Ellen E Jones writing in The Independent describes Freeman’s casting as “A stroke of genius” and finds his Lester Nygaard, “innately likeable.”
As for Oscar winner Thornton, Caroline Frost of the Huffington Post finds him “the perfect fit for the man sent to bring chaos, fear and excitement to Lester's life, and mischief to quite a few others”.
‘Fargo’ continues in the UK Sunday’s on Channel 4 and in the US Tuesdays on FX.