Fargo – Season 1 (FX)
I was very late to the party on this one. My DVR was missing a couple of episodes this year so I didn’t get around to it until just recently since I wanted to watch it before I watched season 2. I could take or leave the movie of the same name, so I didn’t really know how I would feel about the show. Let me start off by saying, I love the accents. I don’t know how accurate they are, but I don’t care, they are wonderful. The other great thing about these anthology style shows is their ability to grab recognizable faces for short gigs. Billy Bob Thornton is wonderful as the enigmatic contract killer. Bob Odenkirk plays a roll more fitting of his pre-Breaking Bad style.
After the first episode, things move a bit slow for a bit. Even binge watching it there felt like a lull early. It seemed crazy to think this story could drag out to 10 episodes, and watching it with a week in between must have been pretty rough. It is at least somewhat understood since the audience sees what happens in the first episode and most of the characters spend the whole rest of the time trying to figure it out. The interconnecting stories make this show strong though. And the payoff of the last few episodes felt very much worth the slog early on. There are enough twists,turns and sideplots to keep things interesting outside of even the main story, and Martin Freeman does a wonderful job playing main character Lester Nygaard. There is some graphic violence at times, so this show isn’t for everyone, but it was very good, and worth the praise it received.
You’re The Worst – Season 2 (FXX)
Season 1 of this black comedy was a surprise success. The pilot was mostly panned, but many critics who had seen multiple episodes told viewers to stick around. Most of them, me included, were glad they did. The result was the “love” story of two horrible people. The big question for season 2, now that they were a couple, was “where does it go from here?” The shows creative team took a totally new approach and mixed in some serious (topical) issues in with the off-the-wall humor.
The focus on mental illness and it’s effect on both the couple individually and their relationship is interesting. I did have some problems with it though. It was universally praised for focusing on such a “real” issue, but really didn’t go anyway near discussing treatment or it’s success rate. Instead it adopted the stubborn personally of it’s co-star and just awkwardly muddled through the problem until it was just magically fixed for now. It was interesting to see the symptoms, and how all the friends coped with it, but because the show didn’t really attack it in a educating or useful way it ended up feeling like something that got in the way of a hilarious show. Aya Cash and Chris Geere put on great performances once again though, and the supporting cast remains good as well. This is still a well put together show, but the much heralded second season arc fell a little flat in it’s closing. Despite that I am greatly looking forward to the third season, and this is still one of the better shows on TV.
Fargo – Season 2 (FX)
Two Fargo reviews at once because I binged watched both seasons in a row pretty much. I was told by many that season 2 was a big step up from season 1, but it’s difficult to say there was much, if any improvement. I think the near year and a half gap between the seasons led people to put a lot of love behind season 2, which had a much deeper cast, but that was almost it’s fault. Like the first season, the 2nd season is mostly about a crime the audience knows the details of, while the characters spend most of the season trying to figure it out. Lou is just as solid as any season 1 character, and he and Molly are the standouts respectively from the first two seasons. But Malvo and Lester were more interesting than anyone else is season two. And even though as a 30-something who loved Friday Night Lights, nostalgia aside Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst got a little old after a while. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, there were a lot of loose ends left out there, and lots of unanswered questions. Maybe some of them get answered in season 3 (season 1 and 2 were loosely tied together), but more likely this is meant to stand on it’s own. That is a problem with these anthology series though.
Mike Milligan (played expertly by Bokeen Woodbine) is a ripe and interesting character. He could have been the focus of the show, and in a traditional series likely would have had a much bigger role by the end of the season, or in season 3. But ultimately he will just be cast aside for the next cast. Although that makes me sad, the casts for these first two seasons have been wonderfully constructed. At times things are a little slow, and the unanswered questions make the story feel incomplete, but this is still a very good show. Unlike a lot of people it doesn’t crack my top tier, but the accents alone make it worth watching.
Casual – Season 1 (Hulu)
I doubt I would have found/watched this show if I hadn’t signed up for Hulu Plus to see Fargo season 1. But good on Hulu for jamming the ads for it down my throat so that I would check it out. Michaela Watkins, who appears to be one of this decade’s “that girls”, stars as a recently separated mother of one who moves in with her single entrepreneurial brother while she gets her love life going again. Her teenage daughter is played in a very Jena Malone/Thora Birch kind of way by Tara Lynne Barr (never heard of her before). Watkins’ character tries online dating and random hookups all based on the advice of her serial dating brother who seems to know nothing about love. As more is revealed about their bizarre upbringing (including the introduction of their parents) it all makes a lot more sense. There are lots of uncomfortable scenes and exchanges, but not over the top uncomfortable like in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
The problem is that some of them are just awkward and not funny. At times this show feels like it has a You’re the Worst vibe to it, but not nearly as funny. It definitely feels like the more typical “dramedies” we are seeing from the streaming companies (e.g., Transparent, Master of None, etc.) Than the more traditional sitcom style. That is definitely a good move, but this show doesn’t hold up against the so many other good ones out there. I might be back for season 2 if I still have Hulu Plus, but I won’t go out of my way for it.