Tag Archives: William H. Macy

FX’s Fargo recaptures spirit of the Coens’ film

Billy Bob Thornton stars in Fargo.

Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton stars as a hired killer with an eccentric notion of morality in ‘Fargo,’ premiering tonight on FX.

When I heard that FX was adapting the Oscar-winning movie Fargo into a 10-episode limited series, which premieres tonight, I felt a mixture of joy and apprehension.
On the one hand, Joel and Ethan Coen’s brilliant 1996 black comedy sits securely in my own private list of the five best American movies ever made. On the other, one of the reasons I loved it as much as I do is that Fargo was so defiantly its own thing, a movie that pretty much defied pigeonholing, I was skeptical it could be adapted to another medium.
Thankfully, series creator and executive producer Noah Hawley “gets” Fargo on every level, and his series uncannily captures the spirit and energy of the Coens’ classic, while striking off in its own direction. You won’t find police chief Marge Gunderson (Oscar winner Frances McDormand) or hapless car dealer Jerry Lundergaard (should-have-been-an Oscar winner William H. Macy) – or even a woodchipper, for that matter – in Fargo the series, but you’ll definitely recognize the distinctive combo platter of comedy, violence and Minnesota Nice.
Among its many new characters, Fargo first introduces us to Lorne Malvo (Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton), a laconic hit man whose latest gig goes south in the opening minutes of tonight’s pilot. While he collects himself and prepares to head to his next assignment, Lorne crosses paths with Lester Nygaard (Sherlock star Martin Freeman, making his American TV series debut), a sad-sack Bemidji, Minn., insurance salesman whose wife (Kelly Holden Bashar) belittles everything he does, especially compared to Lester’s much more successful younger brother. Poor Lester is such a meek loser that, even in middle age, he finds himself tormented regularly by Sam Hess (Kevin O’Grady), the bully who made his life a living hell back in high school.
In the way life so often would have it, while Lester is still trying desperately to meet his wife’s lifestyle expectations, Sam is now a local trucking executive married to a former Las Vegas stripper (Kate Walsh, so delightfully funny that I’m ready to forget the silly soapiness of Private Practice).
And while Lorne is, in some respects, a spiritual brother to Anton Chigurh, the stone-cold killer Javier Bardem played in No Country for Old Men, something about Lester’s plight stirs Lorne’s very peculiar sense of moral outrage. Unfortunately, as he tries to set things right for Lester, Lorne sets them both plummeting down a rabbit hole of violence and chaos.
FX very helpfully sent out the first four episodes of Fargo, but I don’t want to give up any more plot details, because this show, by its very nature, is packed with surprises. Time and again, a moment of laugh-out-loud comedy is shattered by a hideous act of violence, and vice versa.
And oh, the dialogue. Fargo is one of those gloriously “written” series, where the characters spout lines that soar just a bit higher than normal conversation. Consider this wonderful moment, near the end of tonight’s pilot, that takes place after smalltown Minnesota cop Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) pulls over Lorne for bombing through a stop sign. Lorne is driving Lester’s car, a fact that could be severely incriminating, especially after Gus asks for his license and registration – and we can tell Lorne is going to kill Gus if he presses the issue.
Locking eyes with Gus, Lorne replies in a level voice: “We could do it that way. You ask me for my papers, I tell you it’s not my car, that I borrowed it. See where it goes. Or you could get in your car and drive away. … Because some roads you shouldn’t go down. Maps used to say ‘There be dragons here.’ Now they don’t. But that don’t mean the dragons ain’t there.”
I’m not saying that the new FX adaptation of Fargo is as good as the Coens’ masterpiece, but it does have just as strong a creative sense of itself and a confidence to pull it off. I’ll be watching.
Martin Freeman stars in 'Fargo.'

British actor Martin Freeman makes his American TV series debut in ‘Fargo.’

Frank confronts his mortality as Shameless returns

William H. Macy stars in Showtime's 'Shameless.''

As Shameless returns tonight to Showtime, Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) is forced to realize his body is shutting down after years of nonstop abuse.

When last we saw him in the Season 3 finale of Shameless, the apparently irredeemable Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) was slipping out of a hospital in a thin dressing gown and stealing away into a frigid wintry night in search of drugs and/or alcohol.
That little errand clearly did not end well, because as Season 4 of the Showtime drama premieres tonight, police raiding a filthy crack den find the Gallagher patriarch passed out and very near death. One of the cops, a Gallagher family friend, brings Frank home, but Fiona (Emmy Rossum) is having none of it, since Frank consistently has put his own addictive needs ahead of his children’s safety. When young Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) stubbornly insists the family take the dying Frank back in, Fiona relents only on the condition that Carl take care of him, like the filthy stray dog their father resembles.
Fiona is still fretting that longtime boyfriend Steve has gone missing without a trace, not knowing that he presumably has been executed by a South American crime lord. She’s also concerned with the whereabouts of her brother Ian (Cameron Monaghan), who has run away to join the Army to get over his breakup with Mickey Milkovich (Noel Gallagher).
There’s another empty bed in the Gallagher household as well: Oldest son Lip (Jeremy Allen White) finally is away at college, although he’s finding his classes quite a bit more challenging than he ever expected. Kid sister Debbie (Emma Kenney), meanwhile, has finally hit puberty and, with it, begun dressing and acting far more provocatively than her age would warrant.
Away from home, things continue to look brighter for Fiona. She’s swiftly advancing in her job at Worldwide Cup, where she has captured the attentions of her nice-guy boss, Mike Pratt (Jake McDorman, Greek). Meanwhile, neighbors Kev and Veronica (Steve Howey, Shanola Hampton) are in for the shock of their lives in their mission to become parents.
Yep, clearly another season of dark, dysfunctional fun is in store on Shameless, adapted from a long-running British comedy.
'House of Lies' returns tonight on Showtime.

Kristen Bell and Don Cheadle return for a third season of comedy in Showtime’s ‘House of Lies.’

Tonight also marks the return of two other (more conventionally funny) Showtime sitcoms, both back for the third seasons. First up is House of Lies, the sharp, bitingly clever comedy set in the dog-eat-dog corporate world. Fans will remember that the jaw-dropping finale to Season 2 ended with Marty (Don Cheadle) going off to start his own agency, without the three other members of his “Pod” going along with him.
In tonight’s season premiere, Marty is indeed at his own shop, but Jeannie and Doug (Kristen Bell, Josh Lawson) are still at Galweather Stern and Clyde (Ben Schwartz), to his everlasting dismay, is now working for Marty’s rageaholic, drug-added ex-wife, Monica (Dawn Olivieri).
At home, Marty is supportive but confused when his sexually ambiguous teenage son, Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.) begins exploring a new relationship that could be a game-changer.
'Episodes' returns tonight to Showtime.

Stephen Mangan, Matt LeBlanc and Tamsin Greig return for another season of frantic comedy tonight in Showtime’s ‘Episodes.’

Right after House of Lies, the Emmy-nominated Episodes returns for a third season of sending up the insanity of life in the world of Hollywood network TV. In tonight’s premiere, married scriptwriters Sean and Beverly Lincoln (Stephen Mangan, Tamsin Greig) have at least tenuously reconciled in their marriage, but Matt (Matt LeBlanc) is still embroiled in a child custody battle with his ex-wife.
At the studio, the ambitious Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins) sees her dreams of being named bead of the network cruelly dashed as the corporate brass decides instead to hire a newcomer. That would be Castor Soto (Chris Diamantopoulos), viewed by many in the industry as a creative genius. Only Castor’s shrink (John Ross Bowie, The Big Bang Theory) knows the truth: Castor is completely nuts, a full-blown schizophrenic who keeps hearing the furniture talking to him.
Showtime helpfully sent out the entire season of Episodes (unlike only the first couple of episodes for the other two returning shows), so I can tell you that while tonight’s premiere starts a little slowly (Sean and Beverly’s marital strain is really getting old as a storyline), series creators David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik have come up with some absolutely delightful twists and turns for this third season – and even, against all odds, contrived yet another finale at the end that both provides closure and also leaves a door open for a Season 4, if Showtime wants one.