Do you remember the days when it was the ultimate compliment to a TV programme that those studio bosses saw fit to turn it into a big screen event?
Well, these days, the quality of (some) television is such that the reverse is now true. Whether any one-off film actually deserves an extended narrative arc over at least one series is kind of academic. There's money to be made here for those that need it and, with Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton in the mix, it becomes a no-brainer with no risk of quality being diluted.
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard is a worm who may turn, with surreal consequences
Martin Freeman, the actor, is, thankfully, less affable than Martin Freeman the 'Everyman' global brand in everything from 'The Office' to 'Sherlock' to 'The Hobbit' - complaining that his affable effortlessness is a lot harder than it looks, as is making his career choices.
'Fargo' would appear to prove his case, where he takes on William H Macy's screen role of the increasingly flattened insurance salesman who can't sell, Lester Nygaard. Once again, Freeman lets us see bizarre events through his bewildered eyes - a daily life in a small town where he's still taunted by the school bully and his wife thinks she married the wrong brother. Lester is so put down, it's clear he's in need of intervention, whether it be a life coach or the slightly more spurious advice and wisdom of strange loner Lorne Malvo.
Billy Bob Thornton - perfectly cast as maverick drifter Lorne Malvo
Now, I've long suspected that Billy Bob Thornton might just be the coolest gentleman in the universe, generally speaking, but he's DEFINITELY the coolest American on screen. Here, he's the perfect fit for the man sent to bring chaos, fear and excitement to Lester's life, and mischief to quite a few others'.
Every other character has something to contribute to the mix, from the police officer's wife "my sister was crazy to say I shouldn't marry you" to Lester's own rifle-brandishing brother "Heck, I pay my taxes." The few knowing nods to 'Fargo' the film (Frances McDormand's pregnancy and dulcet tones being shared out between other characters) prove this show's makers believe they have plenty enough to offer a TV audience over a whole series. Judging by this debut, they'd be right.