By Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood April 16, 2014 at 4:52PM
UPDATE: The premiere of "Fargo," FX's new take on the Coens' 1996 classic (the brothers are exec producing the series), landed good ratings on its April 15 debut, averaging 2.65 million viewers in its initial airing, with 4.15 million total tuning in throughout the first and repeat airings.
Now that TOH! is caught up with the show's first episode, we can report that it was quite close in tone to the neo-noir original, an interesting example of introducing the characters, setting and mood from the Coens' film, and then expanding on them. Unclear whether they're going to give the Frances McDormand character (aka Marrrrge Gunderson) her due -- it's a tough act to follow, not to mention an Oscar-winning one. But Freeman and Thornton are definitely delivering the goods.
EARLIER: It's the type of thing that could easily be a botched operation. But while FX's "Fargo" has intimidatingly big shoes to fill -- in the form of the Coen brothers, no less, who are exec producing -- it seems to be doing so with aplomb, paying homage to the 1996 snow-covered neo-noir while also carving out an identity of its own. Check out a roundup of what the critics are saying, plus the series trailer, below.
Boasting an impressive cast that includes Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Colin Hanks, Allison Tolman, Kate Walsh, Oliver Platt, Adam Goldberg and Russell Harvard, and created by Noah Hawley, the series kicks off April 15 (ie, tonight). So we'll know soon enough if we agree with the high praise.
Like the movie, the series is peculiar, with an irregular rhythm and lots of black humor, and it is also oddly winning. The story is presented as a true crime, though it isn’t. Stretched over 10 episodes, the suspense lies less in whodunit than in the strange ways these quirky characters react to violence.
As bracing as the snowy vistas in the movie on which it is based, FX’s “Fargo” quickly establishes itself as its own property, possessing the tone and style of the rightly admired Coen brothers classic, but pursuing a new tawdry true-crime tale, albeit in similar environs. The limited series also goes far out on a limb in proclaiming its veracity, saying its story’s being told “exactly as it occurred” — a claim that invites skepticism (artistic license has a way of encroaching), but does nothing to cool the passion the show should inspire. Boasting a stellar cast and hypnotic tone, is “Fargo” worth a 10-episode commitment? You betcha.
The casting on Fargo is superb, but none more so than Thornton, who is absolutely magnetic as the calm killer with a penchant for wry observation.... The four episodes that FX sent are a testament to Hawley’s bold belief that he could tackle such an original piece of cinema and make it work on the small screen.
FX’s "Fargo," debuting April 15, 2014, is clever, fun, twisted, and wildly entertaining in the way that fans of not just "Fargo" but all of the Coens’ work hoped it would be. With an amazing ensemble driven by great performances from top to bottom, an incredibly smart writers’ room, brilliant callbacks to the original that feel more inspired than forced, and a filmmaking style that feels as cinematic as this grand Minnesotan tragedy deserves, "Fargo" is one of the most addictive new shows of the year.
But the show finds its literal sweet spot in the kind face of Colin Hanks, who plays police deputy Gus Grimly, a single father so spooked by Lorne during a routine traffic stop that he shamefully agrees to let the man go. This is Hanks' finest work, and his decent, weary mug is reason alone to watch the show. When he teams up with Molly (played by newcomer Allison Tolman), a shrewd, salt-of-the-earth deputy from Lester's hometown, Fargo takes its own compelling flight. You root for these two as they try to make some kind of sense of their rotten world.
Fargo commands one's attention in the tradition of a pretty good yet ultimately impersonal beach read, but it offers an unqualified triumph in its reworking of Marge Gunderson, the character Frances McDormand played in the film.