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Mixed feelings toward ‘Fargo’: Bemidji residents talk about first episode

Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the FX series "Fargo."

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Much of "Fargo" may take place in Bemidji, but that doesn't necessarily mean everyone in Bemidji embraces "Fargo."

There were definitely mixed feelings by Bemidjiians about the 10-episode series that debuted Tuesday night. While some liked the national spotlight, others thought the subject matter was a bit much.

Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht said the show as a bit on the dark side. "It was true to being a dark comedy, sort of a film noir style," Albrecht said of the series, which is based on the 1996 Academy Award-winning film of the same name.

She also had thoughts on the portrayal of a fictional Bemidji and of Minnesotans.

"What occurred to me was if you weren't from Bemidji or the area … you might not even notice," she said. "It was somewhat low-key, which was perhaps a good thing. I think the stereotypes of Minnesotans was somewhat over the top. But that's the whole idea of the series. To parody Minnesota and our accents and our weather. Parodying that persona of being nice people. You know (the show) has this one guy who goes bad because of a bad influence from out of town."

When she first heard some of the series was being set in Bemidji, she liked the idea.

"You know, I thought it was great. This will be fun. I think Fargo and Brainerd from the last one (the film) got a lot of publicity and press," she said. "I'm of the belief that the more people who know the name Bemidji … there may be some downsides, but it's a good thing when you get your name out there across a national stage. So the next time they see Paul and Babe or something about Bemidji, they will remember it."

Bemidji City Council member Michael Meehlhause said the fictional Bemidji looked more like North Dakota than Minnesota.

But overall, setting part of the show in "Bemidji" was exciting. "I enjoyed it. There was a severe lack of trees for Bemidji, but I thought it was good.

"I mean, it's a big TV show, and that's exciting," Meehlhause said.

Meehlhause said he is cautiously optimistic about when they will show Paul and Babe.

"I hope they get it right," he said. "If we, in fact, do get to see them."

Meehlhause and his roommate watched the show and tried to pinpoint the fictional locales, he said. He also live tweeted during the debut, as did many as the Twitter-verse was full of "Fargo" tweets.

"The hospital scene, we were like, 'That's Sanford ER' and we tried to guess which cafe was what? Is that the Minnesota Nice cafe? It was fun," he said. "I'm gonna be really freaked out if Billy Bob Thornton is walking around town."

‘Too violent’

Others, though, did not enjoy the dark humor and violence.

"I watched the first hour and I didn't like it. It was too violent and I thought it would be funnier," said LaDonna Pope. "I didn't like the way they made us sound. We don't talk like that."

Sandy Stenstrum echoed that sentiment. She also did not like the graphic violence and the humor.

"I watched the whole episode. I don't think they got Bemidji right. We have more trees than that," Stenstrum said. "I also didn't think I saw that town as Bemidji, there was not a lot of things to identify it as Bemidji.

"The violence was too much. The blood and gore -- that isn't for me. When I watch TV, I want to relax, not see things like that."

Joe Froemming

Joe Froemming is a page designer for Forum Communications Co. You can read his blog at

You can follow him on Twitter @JosephBemidji

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