Suddenly, Mondays are the promised land for unique (and good) TV


 

In recent weeks, I've been telling about lots of new TV shows, some of them pretty good and some not. But what about shows that are REALLY good and really different? We finally have them, all on one overcrowded night, That's Mondays, beginning Oct. 12, when "Fargo" and "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" debut and "Jane the Virgin" returns. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Here's a common
gripe, and a reasonable question:

TV shows are
sometimes good, sometimes bad, but rarely really different. When will
there be something that feels totally fresh and new?

The answer? Monday
nights, beginning Oct. 12. The second “Fargo” mini-series arrives
at 10 p.m., after “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” debuts at 8 p.m. and
“Jane the Virgin” returns at 9.

At first glance,
these have nothing in common – a tough crime story in rural
Minnesota follows sunny tales in California and Miami. The link:
Small networks, willing to let their creators be creative:

-- FX operates like
the best indie-movie studio, with shows (“Sons of Anarchy,”
“American Horror Story,” “Archer”) that don't feel like each
other ... or like anything else. As Noah Hawley, the “Fargo”
miniseries creator, tells it: “I kept waiting for FX to say to me,
'You can't start the second season with a fake, black-and-white
Ronald Reagan movie.'” They didn't; he starts in that wonderfully
inexplicable way, before jumping into the real story.

-- The CW, which had
little to lose, with shows that barely pierce the top 100 in Nielsen
ratings. It handed a spot to Rachel Bloom, who seems stunned by it
all:.“I'm still not convinced that this whole thing isn't a prank
by my middle-school bullies .... Who would give me a TV show?”

Showtime wouldn't;
it rejected the half-hour version of “Crazy.”

The CW, however,
already had “Jane the Virgin,” with big awards, high praise and
low ratings. “We kept thinking ('Crazy') would be the right fit for
'Jane,'” said CW chief Mark Pedowitz.

So he expanded it to
an hour ... a huge task for a show that includes a giant musical
number in its opener. “It took us two days to film that numnber,”
Bloom said. “And we can definitely keep it up every week. Every
episode is going to have two or three original musical numbers.”

She's not kidding
about those bullies, when she was a teenager in Manhattan Beach, Cal.
“I always felt like a neurotic little New Yorker who wanted to be
on Broadway, living in Southern California. And kids were pretty mean
about it. I went through a period of basically, pretty bad
depression.”

Like a character in
a teen movie, she cut her own hair, wore sweatpants to school and was
the target of a 7th-grade prank, with the most popular boy
paid to ask her out. But she went to New York Univeristy, where she
led the sketch-comedy troupe, savored musicals and began creating her
own music videos.

Those attracted
Aline Brosh McKenna, who had been writing movies, some praised (“The
Devil Wears Prada”) and some not (“27 Dresses”). They crafted a
story that puts Bloom's life in reverse – an intense and depressed
New York lawyer moves to California, home of a long-ago love.

The songs we see are
in her imagination, McKenna said. “It brings this whimsy and lets
you get insde her head. It does all of the wonderful things that we
all love musicals for.”

“Fargo” had an
easier route. The 1996 movie is a classic and the first mini-series
drew raves. Like “Jane,” it won Peabody, American Film Institute
and Golden Globe awards; it also drew 15 Emmy nominations. Now the
same writer (Hawley) has a new story, in a different generation.

We're in 1979
Minnesota. Molly – the sheriff in the first mini-series – is 6;
her father (Patrick Wilson) and grandfather (Ted Danson) are cops,
entangled in a local and visiting gangs.

Hollywood actors
capture the feeling of a different world, which they have links to.
Consider:

-- Kirsten Dunst
plays a beautician who keeps plunging her husband deeper into
trouble. “A lot of my family is from Minnesota,” she said, with
roots in an old family farm there.

-- Jesse Plemons is
the butcher who is her overwhelmed husband. He grew up in Mart, a
Texas town of 2,400, near Waco. “There's an isolation to any small
town,” he said.

-- And Jean Smart is
the crime matriarch. She's not Scandinavian, but grew up in a
Scandinavian neighborhood of Seattle, similar to Minnesota. “I
didn't know I was tall until I moved to New York.”

Now Smart,
5-foot-10, pushes to control a crime empire, in a perverse place on a
night of odd TV.

-- Mondays: “Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend” and “Jane the Virgin,” 8 and 9 p.m., CW; then
“Fargo, 10 p.m., FX

-- All start Oct.
12; “Fargo” opener reruns at 11:30 p.m. and 1 a.m.