Let’s get this out of the way: “Fargo” the TV series is different from “Fargo” the movie -- at least different enough.
The TV version -- created and executive produced by Noah Hawley -- kicks off at 9 p.m. Tuesday on FX (Time Warner Cable channels 61, 205 and 1205), taking the place of “Justified,” which concluded its fifth season last week.
The “Fargo” TV characters are similar to those from the Coen brothers' 1996 film, beginning with English actor Martin Freeman (“The Hobbit,” “Sherlock”) as the sad sack, portrayed by William Macy in the film, whose luck runs from bad to worse. Freeman is just as good as Macy was in the movie.
And with the Coen brothers also as executive producers, the TV show retains the film’s dark humor, thanks, primarily, to Billy Bob Thornton as the drifter/hitman who wreaks havoc on the Minnesota towns of Bemidji and Duluth. Thornton is an anti-hero -- an extremely creepy one -- who marches to a different drummer.
When a postman calls "highly irregular" a piece of mail delivered to a person called “Duluth” in Duluth, Thornton responds -- with not a hint of a smile -- that “highly irregular is finding a foot in a toaster oven.”
The breakout star here is Allison Tolman as a wide-eyed Bemidji deputy, whose character is loosely based on the law enforcement officer played by Frances McDormand in the film. She is the show’s center, with many of the storylines involving her character one way or another.
The supporting cast includes a who’s who of movie and TV actors, including Bob Odenkirk (“Breaking Bad”), Kate Walsh (“Private Practice”), Oliver Platt, Colin Hanks (“Dexter”), Adam Goldberg and Keith Carradine.
The pilot is a trip, with Thornton’s character leaving four bodies in his wake -- three of whom he dispatched himself. Each meets his end in an unusual, dramatic and somewhat humorous fashion. It’s just the kind of thing you’d expect from a Coen brothers' product. Grade: A
Across the remote
* CBS hiring Stephen Colbert to replace David Letterman on “The Late Show” is, in a word, inspired. The former Second City comedian and star of Comedy Central’s “The Stephen Colbert Show” will bring a manic energy that differs from Letterman’s laid-back style. Colbert has said he won’t play his Comedy Central character, which is intriguing in itself. A lot of us don’t know him outside of that.
* I’m curious if there are any readers out there planning to sit through 12 straight days of “The Simpsons” reruns. FXX, which has the syndication rights, plans to run the 550-plus episodes of the animated classic consecutively sometime this summer. FXX is calling the marathon historic. “Simpsons” fans are calling it awesome.
* Fresh off the controversial “How I Met Your Mother” series finale, Cobie Smulders (who played Robin) will reprise her role as Agent Maria Hill in the April 29 episode of ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Smulders played Hill in the “Avengers” movie and reappeared in “S.H.I.E.L.D.’s” pilot episode.
* HBO announced that it renewed “Game of Thrones,” which drew 6.6 million viewers to last Sunday’s fourth season premiere, for two more seasons. The fantasy drama is the premium channel’s most-watched series since “The Sopranos.”
* FXX renewed “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” for two more seasons (11 and 12), and ordered Tracy Morgan’s (“30 Rock”) yet-to-be-named comedy straight to a series for 10 episodes. I didn’t think Morgan would be off the air long after “30 Rock” concluded its run.
* Quick hits … A&E renewed “Bates Motel” for a third season … TV Land plans to bring back the hidden-camera series “Candid Camera” with Allen Funt’s son, Peter, as a co-host …Barbara Walters will co-host her final episode of “The View” on May 16.