BY MIA STEINBERG
FX’s Fargo premiered last week to generally positive reviews. The adaptation (decidedly not a reboot nor a remake) of the Coen Brothers’ 1996 black comedy takes place in the same universe but tells a different set of stories. There are tons of classic films being adapted for the small screen right now; television allows for longer story arcs than film and can explore an established continuity from a new perspective. With Fargo a success (so far), more things like it are sure to follow. Here are five other dark comedies we’d like to see adapted for TV.
5) Burn After Reading
It’s not surprising that the Coen Brothers, creators of Fargo, would have more material to mine for adaptation. 2008’s Burn After Reading is a perfect example of their anarchic sense of humour, focusing on the exploits of two dim-witted gym employees who find a disc full of information that belongs to a former CIA analyst and attempt to blackmail him. Burn After Reading is a celebration of chaos, and its characters are deliciously monstrous but aren’t terribly bright; a TV adaptation exploring this random universe would be like an infinitely more cynical Arrested Development.
4) The Big Question
Chuck Barris is best known as the producer behind The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game and The Gong Show. He’s also completely out of his mind. His 2007 novel The Big Question, focuses on a brilliantly terrifying new game show: the winner gets $100 million dollars, and the loser is executed live on camera. The book spends most of its time following the eventual contestants, which include a teenage prostitute with a genius IQ, a country bumpkin in trouble with the Mob, a trust fund brat-turned dinosaur enthusiast, and many more. With so many intertwining plot threads, The Big Question could not only take its time to develop each story but also become a meta commentary on television, violence, and sweeps week stunts.
This seminal 1988 dark comedy is a favourite among Gen-Xers, and for good reason; it was one of the most pitch-black scripts ever put to screen. While we probably wouldn’t get much traction out of a show that followed the movie’s death-filled plot, there’s a lot of material about the nature of high school and the clique social structure that a Heathers TV show could explore. Hey, they did it with 10 Things I Hate About You; they can do it with this.
The Walking Dead has nothing on this hilariously gory comic book series about Cassie Hack, the Final Girl survivor of a slasher movie-style killer who now tracks down and kills other slashers. Whenever an Elizabeth Bathory-worshipping sorority of lesbians go looking for their next pledge, or an undead child realizes he can kill people in their dreams, Cassie and her Frankenstein-esque buddy Vlad swoop in and put an end to all that nonsense in a bloody, spectacular fashion. The comic series is a dark, intelligent send-up of slasher movie conventions, balancing lipstick lesbians with genuine grief and monsters-of-the-week with longer plot arcs. It’s Supernatural in ripped fishnets; frankly I’m stunned it hasn’t been optioned already.
1) Wild at Heart
David Lynch proved he could make incredible television with Twin Peaks, but audiences in 1991 just weren’t ready for him yet. Wild at Heart isn’t as famous as Blue Velvet or Mulholland Drive, but it’s a brilliant road movie about two youngsters in love who defy all the odds—even the ones that don’t make sense. A Wild at Heart TV show could be a surreal trip through the flyover states, illustrating the futility of nostalgia and the dark insanity that lies beneath the facade of sunny Americana.
Mia Steinberg is a writer, radio host, tech nerd and professional neon redhead living in Victoria, BC. She can be found on twitter @MiaSteinberg, as well as on her radio show blog particlesandwavesshow.com.