TV COLUMN: Fargo, Earth’s Wildest Waters: The Big Fish, TFI Friday

James Waller-Davies
James Waller-Davies

Columnist James Waller-Davies takes a look at this week’s television...

What to do with the dead body you’ve just inadvertently killed? It’s a toughy, for sure. But not if you live in Fargo (Channel 4), where yet another season kicked off with the ‘oops, I’ve killed someone’ dilemma.

This season’s manslaughter mishap was all down to the homespun, apple-pie making, all-American wifey of Peggie Blomquist, played by Kirsten Dunst.

Peggie has hit Rye Gerhardt, with her car. And then driven home with Rye prone on the bonnet and his unconscious head smashed through the windscreen. This is normal for Fargo, where the Coen brother’s blend of the surreal and the grotesquely violent continues to seduce its audience.

Don’t feel too sorry for Rye, though. He’s just spent his evening having a hard time getting a judge to stay dead. Having emptied his gun twice into her and got a steak-knife in the back for his troubles, he was just being momentarily distracted by a UFO when Peggy arrived.

There is a moral inconsistency to Fargo. The bad do eventually get their just desserts, but the innocent often cop a few stray bullets too, and this season’s fall-guy looks set to be harmless Ed, husband of Peggy. The two are like soppy high-school sweethearts who’ve grown up to be bumbling versions of the Macbeths.

Rye, who came round, like a stunned deer, has been put out of his misery by Ed and will begin episode two in the Blomquist’s freezer.

Fargo is modern cinematic television at its best: big budget, big cast, and big ambitions. Channel 4 has done well to secure it for a second time, as increasingly this is the sort of television which hides behind the paywalls of the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and satellite TV. Enjoy it for free while you can.

With what must be a budget pretty close to that of Fargo is Earth’s Wildest Waters: The Big Fish (BBC2).

This is the BBC’s latest attempt to give an everyday hobby the reality TV competition format treatment. This time it’s fishing.

But for a twist, given the apparent lack of fishable water in the UK – we’ve only got about 20,000 miles of coastline and thousands of lakes and rivers – the contestants get to fish all around the world.

So far, we’ve fished Iceland and Cuba – next week, it’ Laos. Nice work if you can get it.

As an exorbitant waste of the licence fee in a year when the BBC is renegotiating its charter and funding, it seems provocatively clumsy to say the least.

It’s an awkward programme. The fishing itself is not sufficiently technical to interest the true angler – and fishing isn’t the sort of thing which enthrals the non-angler.

More problematic is the fact that most of the contestants aren’t very good fishermen, some of whom would be challenged to hook a fish from a bucket.

Someone who has no problems getting a big catch is Chris Evans.

TFI Friday (Channel 4) returned this week, with Evans’ clout being able to attract such giants as U2 and Take That.

Back in the 1990s, TFI Friday was the epitome of ‘lad culture’ and Evans was at the vanguard of it, on TV on a Friday evening and then filling the front page of the red-tops on Saturday morning.

But the lads have all grown up now and so has Evans. What was raucous and risky 25 years ago is now a little tame, lame and tired. The lads aren’t watching TFI before a night out on the town, they’re watching half asleep in the armchair after a week at work and putting the kids to bed.

TFI has become the middle-aged man’s Friday evening snooze-through. Yawn.