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John Lamb, Published March 27 2012

John Lamb column: ‘Fargo’ movie adaptation on FX network? Uh-oh

With a large financial surplus, low unemployment, no flood concerns (this year) and general high quality of life, North Dakotans can have their heads in the clouds.

It looks like we could soon find our bodies in a wood chipper.

Last week Variety magazine announced the cable TV network FX was considering adapting the Coen brothers’ movie “Fargo” into a TV series.

Not really the type of national exposure North Dakotans were looking for, particularly after North Dakota Tourism’s brouhaha over a “Legendary” spot that got pulled and increasingly dreary news coming from the oil fields out west.

Sure, the 1996 movie helped put our town on the pop culture map. When the film was up for Academy awards, Broadway in front of the Fargo Theatre was closed for festivities – including a wood chipper – and the national media was there to cover it.

The national media loves the movie. When George W. Bush visited, the presidential press corps talked about watching the movie on the plane multiple times.

But a big part of the community felt “Fargo” gave its namesake a cold shoulder and black eye. The black humor didn’t so much tickle funny bones as it snapped necks and the only scene set in Fargo was actually filmed in Minneapolis.

The allegedly true story of two idiot criminals who bungle a kidnapping scheme on behalf of a dim-witted car salesman and a lot of grating dialogue wasn’t the image locals wanted in the national spotlight.

But it sure fits FX’s m.o.

The network makes its name showcasing the grittier side of communities around the country. “The Shield” gave us bad cops from Los Angeles. “Nip/Tuck” depicted debauched plastic surgeons in Miami. “Rescue Me” watched the repeated alcoholic descent of an abusive New York firefighter.

If you blinked you missed “The Riches,” a family of scheming travelers passing as a wealthy family in Baton Rouge, La. The third season is wrapping on “Justified,” about a Deputy U.S. Marshal in his native Harlan County, Ky.

And last but not least, the misleadingly titled “Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” about the antics of a lowbrow gang that owns a dive bar on the dark side of the City of Brotherly Love.

Suffice to say, FX isn’t really family programming.

So why should the Great Plains go unscathed?

Of course, “Fargo” ended with the last of the criminals in custody, so where would the story go?

Between heated battles over a proposed Red River diversion here and the oil fields resembling a modern wild West, it wouldn’t take much to keep Marge Gunderson (since moved from Brainerd, Minn., to Cass County, N.D.) solving cases faster than you can say, “OK, so we got a trooper pulls someone over, we got a shooting, these folks drive by, there’s a high-speed pursuit, ends here and then this execution-type deal.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533