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I Can’t Afford To Watch Great TV: How Cable Became Classist

Where to Stream

Fargo

Back when Fargo first aired on FX, I was finishing up a thesis and getting ready to graduate. I simply didn’t have the time to dedicate to a series I’ve heard requires a lot of attention. Paying close attention to anything was nearly impossible while living with three other women who were also preparing to enter the real world. Not to mention our sad excuse for a cable subscription that would switch over to Spanish whenever its little satellite heart desired. Olé!

Now that life is a bit more routine and the bitter New York winter is kicking into full gear, what better time than to catch up on the Emmy-winning and now Golden Globe-nominated series? I searched FX Now, an app I downloaded to XBOX that allows me to watch The League whenever I want: nothing. Seriously FX, what is the meaning of this? Isn’t Fargo your biggest show since American Horror Story? OK, let’s check Amazon Instant Video. $25.99 FOR A SEASON PASS?! ARE YOU JOKING? DON’T YOU KNOW CHRISTMAS IS COMING AND I HAVE LOANS?

They weren’t joking. And it’s not available anywhere else. But being the TV junkie that I am, I caved and purchased the season (in HD because I’m also a snob) for $25.99. This better be the best fucking show I’ve ever seen, I thought.

Five minutes in, I silently confirmed my outrageous purchase was well worth it: Fargo is phenomenal television. Too bad it’s enclosed behind ridiculous paywalls that make it inaccessible to folks who don’t have an extra almost thirty bucks to throw at something they can’t hold in their hands.

True to its predecessor, the series shares similar tones, themes, and nuances as the Coen brothers’ pitch black crime-comedy of the same name, though it probably helps that they’re executive producers. I’ve read that creator Noah Hawley wanted the series to play out like a ten-hour film, chronicling a week in the life of Midwesterners in the aftermath of multiple homicides that affect the residents of rural Bemidji, Minnesota. Hawley’s flawless execution of his fragmented feature makes Fargo almost impossible not to binge. Lorne Malvo’s (Billy Bob Thornton) murderous influence over simpleton Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) is nothing short of enthralling and “just one episode” becomes three and, before you know it, you have to get up for work in four hours.

That got me thinking: I would certainly pay far more than $25.99 to watch a 10-hour film. Does this mean FX is in the right?

With the blurring between anthology TV and film becoming hazier than ever, consumers are forced to adjust to a new kind of barrier between their wallets and the series they’re so desperate to binge. As series of Fargo and True Detectivecaliber grow and inspire similar formats, two monetary shifts could happen.

One being the most ideal: the more popular limited series become, the more accessible they will be to audiences. We’ll no longer have to pay an arm and leg for a season pass or be forced to subscribe to new platforms just so we can be on board with the latest drama craze. Because one thing is for certain about this Golden Age of Television: the Internet won’t shut up about it, plaguing us with serious bouts of FOMO. On the other hand, if anthology series continue to bring this kind of quality to the small screen, the more bankable their exclusivity could become.

We’ve already seen both sides of the argument played out. Fargo is practically inaccessible unless you caught it while it was still on or you’re willing to treat yourself; while the fee for a season pass isn’t really a ton of money to lose, it still feels like a daunting expense when you have Netflix flaunting film-quality original series (and stars and directors) included in the $7.99 monthly subscription. Oh, and you can watch other shows and movies when you need a break from bingeing. The payoff with Fargo is a ten-hour relationship with one series that’s over before you know it — but hey, at least your watercooler convo vault has expanded!

If Netflix and other on-demand platforms continue to up the ante with series like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and now, Marco Polo (which cost the company a cool $90 million dollars), they’ll give cable even more competition to be concerned about, which could level the price points for content-hungry viewers looking for new obsessions. Fingers crossed.

 

Feeling overwhelmed by all that the world of streaming has to offer? Enter Decider Streamline. It’s our weekly video that will feature our top five picks for what you should be streaming this week.

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Photos: FX, Everett Collection

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