Rather than giving an existing movie the straight TV adaptation treatment, FX’s Fargo retains the Coens as creatives but keeps none of their original characters.
The announcement of another remake is commonly met with groans of exasperation, but the fact is that remakes remain popular in Hollywoodland and amongst demographics that missed out on the original versions. The spike in horror remakes (Halloween, Friday The 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street) in the last decade bordered on the ridiculous. Recently though, the ‘remake’ has gripped another medium – television.
Fargo is a favourite amongst critics and film fans, so the decision to make it into a ten-part series rubbed some up the wrong way
TV’s overstated ‘Golden Age’ is very much coming into the age of the reboot. The current wave of movie adaptations that have taken to the small screen is staggering; from Bates Motel to Teen Wolf, Hannibal to About a Boy, all are attracting their devoted fan base and some younger viewers along the way. The latest adaptation is of the Coen brothers’ cult classic Fargo, the new TV show of which will hit the screens on both sides of the Atlantic in the coming weeks, but what makes it different from the rest?
When the news broke that Fargo was to be adapted to TV, it had its sceptics, and rightly so. The movie, which won two Academy Awards in 1997, is a favourite amongst critics and film fans, so the decision to make it into a ten-part series rubbed certain people up the wrong way. As more and more news emerged, it became clear that this was in no way a remake, prequel, sequel etc, but merely an exploration of characters in a similar setting and situation to the movie of the same name. It’s true that it will explore the same themes, violence and black comedy as the Coen brothers’ 1996 film, but it will not feature any of the characters.
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This not only distinguishes the Fargo TV show from the original movie, but it also makes it difficult to compare the two. The difference between this and many other remakes on TV at the moment is that many of those shows feature characters from the original version. Hannibal is set before the incidents in Red Dragon (or the often forgotten and underrated Manhunter) and it features Dr. Lecter and Will Graham, two of the series’ pivotal characters. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is set after the events of Avengers Assemble, revolving around the character Phil Coulson, who featured in many of the previous Marvel movies. Fargo offers something a little different.
Fargo has intriguing characters, a wonderfully bleak snow blanket backdrop, a stellar cast and potential to be a great TV series
Joel and Ethan Coen are taking the ‘hands-off’ approach to the Fargo TV series, acting as executive producers, while the lack of Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi and William H. Macy has disgruntled fans, some stating they refuse to watch the show without the original cast members. But the line-up for the new characters doesn’t disappoint: Billy Bob Thornton takes the lead role as the drifter Lorne Malvo. Martin Freeman, hot off the heels of The Hobbit films and Sherlock, takes the role of Lester Nygaard, who bears striking similarities to the hapless Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) from the Coens’ original film. Other cast members include Bob Odenkirk, Colin Hanks, Keith Carradine, Kate Walsh, Oliver Platt, Glenn Howerton and many more.
Fargo has intriguing characters, a wonderfully bleak snow blanket backdrop, a stellar cast and bags of potential to be a great TV series. The only issue: it has a lot to live up to. It not only has the Fargo fans to impress all over again, but it also has to win over a new audience, just like so many other TV remakes. More and more TV series are coming out of the woodwork from all over the world and on many different formats, increasing the competition. With From Dusk Till Dawn jumping to TV and the recent announcement that Scream is being adapted by MTV, the remake revolution is very much alive.
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All images: FX