Fargo TV show arrives; now in fictional Bemidji

Fargo TV show

I was in high school when Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Fargo” came out in theaters. Initially, I was excited to see a movie set in my home state, but quickly I was more mesmerized with the filmmaking.

“Fargo” is grim and cold, probably the best way to describe winter in Minnesota. In fact, the movie is filled with winter nuances that are dead accurate: scraping windshields, running through snow, the way running cars become warm refuges on frigid nights. I’ve never shot a guy in a parka before, but I fully believe that it goes down just like in the movie. You see tufts of down fly out of the bullet hole long before you see the blood.

I saw the movie twice in the theater. There was this girl I really, really liked and I got just one chance EVER to hang out at her house to watch a movie. I brought “Fargo.” It made her very uncomfortable. And so it goes.

I used to get in a lot of arguments about the movie. My fellow northern Minnesotans were obsessed about the exaggerated Minnesota/North Dakota accents used by Frances McDormand, William H. Macy and the rest of the cast. “We don’t sound like that!” they screamed.

It’s true that the Minnesota accent, like any accent, is more pronounced in some than others. Some people here can pass for Nebraskans, while others would fit right into the “Fargo” world. But really, the issue is that Minnesotans aren’t used to seeing themselves depicted in media or art. Our two most famous sons are Bob Dylan and Prince, each of whom shrieked as far away from the prevailing speech pattern as physically possible (and one of whom has a cameo in “Fargo”).

Well, some 17 years later, “Fargo” is back, this time as a Billy Bob Thornton vehicle on FX. Instead of being set in and around a fictionalized Brainerd, this Fargo TV show version takes place further north, in Bemidji.

See my review of “Fargo” on FX.

I happened to be at an event with Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht last week. It was clear after a few minutes that she was probably fielding 100 questions a day about the new show, and what it might mean for a town whose university mascot is actually a Beaver. Everyone has their fingers crossed, hoping for the best.

As the Duluth News Tribune reports, many northern Minnesotans are worried, once again, about how we will be portrayed to a national audience.

I still don’t mind much about that. The bigger issue is whether the Fargo TV show is good or not. A good show set in Minnesota will invariably inspire the kind of attention that brings people and future projects. A bad one will just end up shot down like an anonymous motorist on a frozen lake, tragically forgotten.

The Fargo TV show debuts Tuesday at 9 p.m. CST on FX.

* Fargo is in North Dakota. Only one scene in the movie takes place there, so why the movie is called that remains an artistic mystery dating back to 1996.

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