State of the Dis-Union
Make a wish.
Twice in the last month, I have watched something new that made me think of “The Chris Farley Show.” Depending on how old you are (and boy, isn’t that a fun thing to type), you may recall this recurring sketch from Saturday Night Live without me having to explain it. But a refresher for those of you who don’t know it offhand: in these sketches, Farley would sit next to an immensely famous pop-culture figure, such as Martin Scorsese or Sir Paul McCartney. They’d be appearing on his faux-talk show only to find that Farley’s line of questions were less perceptive and more him just reflecting on the most iconic and quintessential things these artists have created and sweatily, nervously asking “…you…you remember that? …That was cool.”
As a sketch, “The Chris Farley Show” was extremely funny. But watching real filmmakers evince Farley in their purportedly new works is pretty troubling. The first time I thought of “The Chris Farley Show,” I was watching the new season of FX’s drama series Fargo. I adore the Coen Brothers’ classic from 1996; it is peerless in every regard. The series inspired by both Fargo the film and the entire Coen aesthetic is not remotely as successful, in part because no one can hope to equal what Joel and Ethan Coen brought to the table. (I would imagine the show’s creator Noah Hawley probably agrees with that, but that doesn’t mean he’s stopped trying!) Previous seasons have nodded at or all but directly quoted Fargo or other Coen films, but this one goes hard, very, very, very quickly. Within the first few minutes, a female police officer with a heavy Minnesota accent is chiding someone she’s just arrested that “it’s a beautiful day.” Later in the episode, a housewife — married to a meek car dealer and with a child named Scotty — is abducted by two men in ski masks. One of them is strange and stiff, and the other is (you might say) a funny-lookin’ guy.
Now, if you have watched the first two episodes of the new season, you know that this iteration of Fargo is more than just Hawley all but sitting next to you on your couch, nudging you in the ribs and asking “Remember that scene? Do you remember that scene?” But at the start, that is all he seems to be doing, and it is exhausting.
The second time I thought about “The Chris Farley Show” this month, it was in relationship to Disney Animation’s new film Wish. And unfortunately, metaphorically nudging us in the ribs, asking us if we remember that character or that film or that scene, is all this movie has to offer.