01 January 2001

TV Crime Log: Fargo, Jamaica

You’d expect Easter to deliver up some televisual goodies, and next weekend duly serves up the beginning of two very different crime series.

FargoFargo, which begins on Sunday night, is a bit of an oddity. You know Fargo, right? Marge Gunderson, Jerry Lundegaard. Everyone saying yah, and woodchippers, and suchlike.

Well, this series isn’t that. It’s kind of inspired by that, but it’s a whole new story with totally new characters - but still retaining the whole Fargo vibe. So Billy Bob Thornton is the stranger who comes to a Minnesota and sends the life of an insurance salesman, played by Martin Freeman, spiralling out of control.

The Coens are exec-producing, and they’ve written some episodes, which bodes well. The series is produced by Noah Hawley, who’s done some television and written a rather good crimey-tinged novel called The Good Father.

Curiously, this isn’t the first time Fargo was adapted for the telly. The Sopranos’ Edie Falco starred as Marge in a pilot that never went to series way back in 1997.

The first part of this ten-part iteration is on Sunday night, 9pm on Channel Four.

Jamaica InnEaster Monday brings the first episode of BBC1’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s tale of murderous smugglers, Jamaica Inn. Published in 1936, it was filmed only three years later by Alfred Hitchcock.

The blurb occasionally enjoys a tot of rum:

Set in 1821 against the forbidding backdrop of windswept Cornish moors, the story follows the journey of young and spirited Mary Yellan who is forced to live with her Aunt Patience after the death of her mother.

Despite pressure to marry local boy Ned after her mother’s death, Mary refuses to compromise. Though Ned is kind to her, she doesn’t love him and won’t marry without love. Mary declines Ned’s proposal, and journeys to Jamaica Inn in Cornwall.

Mary arrives at the isolated Inn to discover her Aunt is a shell of the carefree woman she remembers from her childhood, and instead finds a tired and anxious woman who is firmly under the spell of her domineering husband Joss.

Joss is the head of a gang of men who smuggle all along the stretch of the Cornish coastline. It’s dangerous and violent work and when Joss isn’t smuggling, he is drinking heavily to forget all that he has seen.

To complicate matters further Mary finds herself drawn to the enigmatic Jem Merlyn, but Jem is her uncle’s brother and therefore not to be trusted in Mary’s mind - although her heart may say otherwise…

Life at Jamaica Inn challenges Mary’s black and white perceptions of morality as she finds herself living among smugglers in a lawless land where no one is quite who they seem. When she thinks she has witnessed a murder, Mary wonders at what cost she will stay silent.

Jamaica Inn is on at 9pm, BBC1, next Monday night and then jollies along for three consecutive nights.

In the immortal words of Mr. Harold Shand: ‘It’s Good Friday. Have a Bloody Mary!’