In Fargo, Billy Bob Thornton leads others into temptation
It is said that there are only three possible openings for all great stories: 1) A journey begins; 2) Boy meets girl; and 3) A stranger comes to town. The new SBS series Fargo is in the third category, as David Dale explains ...
We know Martin Freeman can play a romantic paper-shuffler (The Office), a shy porno stand-in (Love Actually), a brave doctor (Sherlock) and a reluctant dragon fighter (The Hobbit). What we will learn on Thursday is that he can also do a heck of a Swedish-American accent.
Comparing a talent quest with a sitcom is not so much apples and oranges as apples and sausages
Freeman stars in Fargo, a black comedy vaguely related to the Coen Brothers movie that won Oscars for Best Screenplay and Best Actress in 1997. Freeman plays Lester Nygaard, a mild-mannered Minnesotan tempted into a life of crime by a satanic visitor played by Billy Bob Thornton.
Martin Freeman is easily led ... for a while
Minnesota was settled in the mid 19th century by pilgrims from Sweden, so it has a particular way of speaking. Freeman listened to recordings of Minnesotans and found it wasn’t just a matter of regularly inserting “Aw gees” and “Oh yah” and “Ah heck”.
As he told a phone media conference last week: “What I wanted to do was not, definitely not, do a caricature and definitely not do something that was just comic or a way of going ‘Oh aren’t these people funny?’ kind of thing.
"I worked very hard on the accent because I didn’t want it to be like a comedy sketch. I wasn’t playing an accent. I was playing a character who happened to speak like that and to be from that place.
Didn't Kerry (above) look like his father (below)?
“I think Lester is pretty universal. There are Lesters everywhere in every race and walk of life and country. There are people who are sort of downtrodden and people who are underconfident and all that, so that was more a case of tapping into that in myself, really.”
Freeman signed up for the mini-series on the strength of one pilot script, and a promise that the story would be limited to 10 episodes.
“Within that first episode the range that he goes between is really interesting and so I knew that was only going to grow and expand in the next nine episodes, and so it proved to be,” Freeman said. “In all the 10 episodes I get to play pretty much the whole gamut of human existence and human feeling.
“That’s exactly what you want to do as an actor. And [screenwriter Noah Hawley] treads that line very well between drama and comedy and the light and dark.“
I think Fargo will prove to be the new Breaking Bad.
Fargo starts with two episodes on SBS1 at 8.30pm Thursday May 1.
Mandy McElhinny as Nene King (right) and Rachel Griffiths as Dulcie Boling, in Paper Giants
What's wrong with the Logies
A lump of gold may not be full compensation for your lover being killed by a car as you are about to give birth, but it’s got to help. That’s why Asher Keddie is most likely to take out The Gold Logie for a second time in the ceremony broadcast on Channel Nine tonight.
The other nominees for the title of Most Popular Personality on TV (aka The Gold Logie) – Andy Lee, Essie Davis, Carrie Bickmore and Scott Cam – did not face the same acting challenges as Keddie. Her lover, played by Matthew le Nevez, was violently written out of her series, Offspring, so he could star in the ABC’s drama Parer’s War, which finds itself up against the Logie ceremony tonight.
The Logies involve two kinds of awards – the Most Outstandings (voted by industry professionals) and the Most Populars (voted by anybody who wants to log onto the website). It’s the second group of voters who are deciding Keddie’s fate tonight, and they’ll want to reward her for moving them to tears in last year’s final episode.
Of course, their votes might have been swamped by the secret efforts of publicists for the competing networks. We just never know. That’s the perennial credibility problem of the Most Popular Logies.
There are issues with Most Outstanding awards too. The categories don’t make sense.
Australians love comedy, and we’re very good at writing it and performing it. So why don’t the Logies have a category that honours comedy? The nearest they get to it is a category called “Most Outstanding Light Entertainment”, which this year contains these nominations: The Voice, Housos, It's A Date, Please Like Me and Upper Middle Bogan. You may wonder what the hell The Voice is doing in the same category as Upper Middle Bogan. Comparing a talent quest with a sitcom is not so much apples and oranges as apples and sausages. Even if you exclude The Voice, where is Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell and Jamie: Private School Girl?
But you can’t exclude The Voice from “Light Entertainment” because there’s nowhere else for it to go. The Logies have no peer-voted category that recognises the hard work of those who construct talent quests such as The Voice, The X-Factor, Australia’s Got Talent, My Kitchen Rules, The Block, and MasterChef -- even though they’re the favourite form of TV entertainment for the majority of Australian viewers.
Some of those titles are nominated in the “Most Popular” categories, but they do not function as an encouragement to raise industry standards. There’s a clear case for category-reform. But working with the tools we are given, lets take a stab at predicting how tonight’s main awards will go …
For Outstanding Drama Series, the nominations are A Place To Call Home, Offspring, Redfern Now,The Time Of Our Lives, and Wentworth.
If it were based on ratings, A Place To Call Home would win easily, but the industry snobs tend to write it off as a soap. Based on heavyweights in the cast, The Time of Our Lives would win. But I think they’ll give it to Offspring because the writers killed off a key character.
For Outstanding Miniseries or Telemovie, the nominations are An Accidental Soldier, Better Man, Paper Giants: Magazine Wars, Power Games: The Packer-Murdoch Story, and Top Of The Lake.
Foxtel’s Top of the Lake had seriousness (and international respect), but it’s terminally slow. I think they’ll give it to Paper Giants: Magazine Wars because the voters work in the media.
Continuing the passion for Packer, I think Outstanding Actress will go to Mandy McElhinney (who played Nene King in Paper Giants) while Outstanding Actor will go to Lachy Hulme (for playing Kerry’s father Frank in Power Games).
And the Most Popular Presenter prize will go to Hamish Blake, because he’s the funniest out of a list of nominees that includes Scott Cam, Carrie Bickmore, Adam Hills and Andy Lee. That’s unless Channel Ten’s publicists have been working overtime at their keyboards — in which case it will go to Carrie Bickmore.
Find out how wrong those predictions are at 8pm on Sunday when the Logies start on Nine. To find out who was voted the worst in television, go to The Bogies results, 2014
The Tribal Mind column, by David Dale, appears in a printed form every Sunday in The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age and also as a director's cut on this website, where it welcomes your comments.
David Dale teaches communications at UTS, Sydney. He is the author of The Little Book of Australia - A snapshot of who we are (Allen and Unwin). For daily updates on Australian attitudes, bookmark The Tribal Mind.