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Why 'Fargo' For TV Works With Cold Efficiency And 'Bad Teacher' Doesn't

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Why 'Fargo' For TV Works With Cold Efficiency And 'Bad Teacher' Doesn't

Why 'Fargo' For TV Works With Cold Efficiency And 'Bad Teacher' Doesn't

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Tonight, CBS becomes the latest network turning to an old formula - trying to replicate the success of a hit movie by turning it into a TV show. But their retake of the comedic flick "Bad Teacher" doesn't get very high marks from NPR TV critic Eric Deggans.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: TV's "Bad Teacher" is a self-centered, blonde gold-digger who is a little harsh with her nerdy students.


ARI GRAYNOR: (as Meredith) OK, look. It gets better. Just not right away and honestly not for everybody. It'll probably only get better for one of you.

DEGGANS: Pretty much a copy of the self-centered blonde gold-digger in the film "Bad Teacher," played by Cameron Diaz.


CAMERON DIAZ: (as Elizabeth) You are sensitive.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: (as student) Yes. Thank you.

DIAZ: (as Elizabeth) It's not a compliment. You have some rough road ahead of you. Seventh grade is not your moment.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: (as student) Yeah. Eight grade will be better.

DIAZ: (as Elizabeth) Probably not.

DEGGANS: This is the big problem with CBS's clone of a not very good movie from 2011. TV's "Bad Teacher" just copies the characters and copies the situations. Here Diaz's character turns down a date with a co-worker, played by Jason Segel.


JASON SEGEL: (as Russell) Hey, uh, it might be too soon, but you want to, like, grab a bite or something sometime?

DIAZ: (as Elizabeth) You still a gym teacher?

SEGEL: (as Russell) I am, yeah.

DIAZ: (as Elizabeth) Then no.

DEGGANS: And here's TV's recycled version of the same lame joke.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as coach) Maybe I was wrong about you.

GRAYNOR: (as Meredith) Ugh. It's called deodorant, dude. Look into it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as coach) Or maybe not. But either way, we should hang out sometime.

GRAYNOR: (as Meredith) You're a gym teacher. I'm never going to sleep with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as coach) We all do things we never thought we'd do, Miss Davis.

DEGGANS: Of course we know - in both cases - she's going to end up with the guy. But the center of the film is the character's transformation from heartless bad girl to a better person. TV's "Bad Teacher" does that in a half an hour. So how does this one note joke last over an entire season?

The best TV translations recreate a film's vibe. And no television show has restored the thrill of watching a beloved movie masterpiece like FX's version of "Fargo." The vibe here is centered on cold, rural, eccentric Bemidji, Minnesota. Police chief Vern Thurman and Deputy Molly Solverson are investigating several odd deaths.


ALLISON TOLMAN: (as Molly) Cold enough for you, chief?

SHAWN DOYLE: (as Vern) Supposed to get down to negative 10 later.

TOLMAN: (as Molly) Yeah. I heard that. Don't much like the sound of negative.

DOYLE: (as Vern) I thought I'd strip down to my shorts, work on my tan.

DEGGANS: In the movie, the police chief was a very pregnant woman, played by Frances McDormand. But she greeted a crime scene with the same folksy charm and a cup of coffee.


FRANCES MCDORMAND: (as Margie) Hiya, Lou. Whoo. Whatcha got there?

BRUCE BOHNE: (as Lou) Margie. Thought you might need a little warm-up.

MCDORMAND: (as Margie) Thanks a bunch. So what's the deal now? Terry says triple homicide?

BOHNE: (as Lou) Yeah. It looks pretty bad. Two of 'em are over here. Watch your step, Margie.

DEGGANS: Plus, "Fargo" the TV show gives us two great new characters: British actor Martin Freeman as a loser insurance salesman, and professional eccentric Billy Bob Thornton as a creepy traveling hitman. They meet sharing a soda, stuck in a hospital waiting room. An oblivious Martin Freeman confides to the hit man he's being tormented by a local bully.


BILLY BOB THORNTON: (as Lorne) This is a man who doesn't deserve to draw breath.

MARTIN FREEMAN: (as Lester) Heck, you're so sure about it. Maybe you should just kill him for me.

THORNTON: (as Lorne) You're asking me to kill this man.

FREEMAN: (as Lester) No. That was - I was joking.

DEGGANS: The hit man kills the bully anyway. And there's fallout even fans of the film can't predict. FX's "Fargo" works on two levels. It delivers all the nostalgia of a film fans adore with the creative juice of a new work. And that's a lesson CBS's "Bad Teacher" just hasn't learned yet.

INSKEEP: Eric Deggans is NPR's TV critic and you hear him right here on MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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