Believe it or not, the article below is the absolute first time that reading an interview with a showrunner or a star has made our Beloved Leader, LB, change his mind and decide to give a new series a try. So let’s put our hands together for…oh, um, reportage in the U.K. Yeah, baby:
by Ben Arnold
This is a true story. In 1998, the current TV belle epoque not even a twinkle in the eye of the US networks, a pilot was filmed for a TV series of the Coen brothers‘ churningly tense black comedy Fargo, which had been released two years previously. It was the last writing and production credit for the late Bruce Paltrow (father of Gwyneth), starred The Sopranos‘ Edie Falco and was directed by Misery actor and occasional director Kathy Bates. Set in Brainerd, Minnesota, it featured Falco as police chief Marge Gunderson, the role immortalised by Frances McDormand in the movie. The Coen brothers were not involved. The project, though strangely enticing, fizzled out.
Then, in 2012, news emerged that another telly crew had taken an interest in the world of Fargo, beginning a slow drip-feed of information about the project that indicated very good things indeed. Firstly, FX, the maverick Fox spin-off network behind brooding dramas such as Justified and Sons Of Anarchy, would be making it. Writing would be Noah Hawley, a novelist and TV writer with a CV including crime comedy-drama Bones. More convincing still, it would not feature any of the same characters from the film, and was amassing an undeniably classy cast, including Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Bob Odenkirk, Colin Hanks, US sketch comedy dons Key & Peele, and Oliver Platt.
It was also being ordered “straight to series”, the holy grail in US TV’s cautious pilot system. Finally – the coup de grâce to any naysayers – the Coens themselves, unlike with the efforts back in 1998, had read it, liked it, and signed on as executive producers. The Coens’ blessing transformed the cautious optimism about the show into outright buzz. And here we are.
“Joel and Ethan read the first script,” says Hawley. “They were very complimentary about it. Then they saw the first episode when it was completed, and Ethan said ‘Yeah, good’. Billy [Bob Thornton], of course, has worked with the Coens two or three times. He said that ‘Yeah, good’ is like a rave review from Ethan.”
Hawley’s first conversation with FX, which was negotiating with rights owners MGM about making the series, went something like this: “OK, so you’ve asked me to create a television series. This is not a television series,” he says. “That got their attention, and I talked them through how I would approach it. It’s a 10-hour movie.”