What to watch this week: UW grad stars in new season of ‘Fargo’

April 14, 2017 GMT

When “Fargo” the TV series first premiered in 2015, immediate comparisons were made to the 1996 movie of the same name.

And while it wasn’t quite the same story, the TV series certainly contained more than a few elements shared by the movie.

For one, there was the accent. That so-weird-it-must-be-exaggerated flat, nasally sound of the not-quite-Canadians was, well, pretty spot-on, in some cases. Some folks really do sound like that, doncha know. That’s one thing the movie and the series shared. And the niceness – were people who lived in Minnesota and thereabouts really so polite? Gosh darn it, you betcha they were – are. Say a lot of things about Upper Midwesterners, but niceness is the truth. And both the movie and the series oozed politeness. Well, the second season of the series had a few souls whose temperaments ran a little on the hot side, but overall, everyone is just plain nice.


The series also proved to share the movie’s bungling criminal element, inept murderers, and twisty plotlines that meandered through the snowy woods and back again. And you can rely on the steady, unflappability of law enforcement to follow that trail, even though at times it made no sense.

That the series carries the stamp of approval from the movie’s creators is likely the reason why the film’s aesthetic seems to seep into the series. Joel and Ethan Coen, Minneapolis natives, have a knack for creating a mood that mixes oddball quirk, macabre mystery, depraved violence, and offbeat humor, producing a result that is as gripping to watch as it is difficult to categorize.

The upcoming third season follows suit, offering an unnecessary murder, a dedicated investigator, bumbling criminals, and a circuitous plotline that ties everything together. We’re in 2010 — a big jump from last season’s 1970s-set dueling crime family story, but a mere step from the first season’s 2006 time period. UW-Madison graduate Carrie Coon stars as Eden Valley, Minnesota, police chief Gloria Burgle, a single mom who is tasked with the case, which may or may not involve one or both brothers Emmit and Ray Stussy, both played by Ewan McGregor.

Emmit, the suave, successful “Parking Lot King of Minnesota” (reminiscent of Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt), the “Supermarket King of Minnesota” from the first season, perhaps?), and his slightly younger brother Ray, the paunchy, balding parole officer, have a beef: Ray thinks Emmit swindled him out of his rightful fortune involving a valuable postage stamp. He wants to settle the score so he can buy a ring for his girlfriend, Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).


As you might guess, things go wrong. Misunderstandings lead to mistakes lead to misadventures, and pretty soon things are all messed up. And playing a critical role in the action is the cutthroat world of competitive bridge.

Just in time for spring, revisit the barren, unforgiving wintry landscape of “Fargo,” premiering at 9 p.m. Wednesday on FX.

“Guerrilla” warfare: Political activists cross the line into radical militancy in 1971 London, where racial tensions and police brutality are at a breaking point. “Guerrilla” stars Frieda Pinto and Babou Ceesay as a couple whose plan to liberate an imprisoned political prisoner sparks violence in the civil rights movement. Idris Elba also stars in this six-part limited series written and directed by Milwaukee native John Ridley, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “12 Years a Slave.” “Guerrilla” premieres at 8 p.m. Sunday on Showtime.

The beginning of the end: In the third and final season of “The Leftovers,” which stars Justin Theroux, Christopher Eccleston, Scott Glenn, and Coon, the survivors of the Departure, when 2 percent of the population mysteriously disappeared, are anticipating the end of the world. It’s approaching the seventh anniversary of that fateful day, and those left behind are bracing for a worldwide flood, after which no one is quite sure what will be left over. The end begins at 8 p.m. Sunday on HBO.

The end of the end: After six seasons, they’re all grown ... or are they? Hannah (Lena Dunham), Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke), and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) bid farewell on the series finale of “Girls,” at 9 p.m. Sunday on HBO.

Sunday night fever: Feel the groove with “Stayin’ Alive: A Grammy Salute to the Music of the Bee Gees.” The special features such varied musicians as Demi Lovato, Keith Urban, Ed Sheeran, Pentatonix, Nick Jonas, Little Big Town, John Legend, Stevie Wonder, and – why not? – Barry Gibb playing the music made famous by those kings of the disco. “Saturday Night Fever” star John Travolta – Tony Manero himself! – makes a special appearance; “Stayin’ Alive” airs at 7 p.m. Sunday on Ch. 3.

Life after politics: Former President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is back after losing the presidency (and vice-presidency); now she’s ready for her new chapter in “Veep,” returning Sunday for a sixth season. Eager to secure her legacy as the nation’s first female president, Selina, with trusted bag man Gary (Tony Hale) by her side, is traveling the globe, clumsily spreading goodwill and cheer. “Veep” premieres at 9:30 p.m. Sunday on HBO.