Lori’s list: Compelling ‘Fargo,’ thrilling ‘Orphan Black’

Written By By LORI RACKL TV Critic Posted: 05/15/2014, 06:10am

“THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI” (9 p.m. Monday, WTTW-Channel 11): Chicago filmmaker Bill Siegel explores Muhammad Ali’s toughest fight — his battle to overturn a prison sentence for refusing to serve in the U.S. military — in this 90-minute look at one of the most controversial sports figures of our time. The documentary includes interviews with Ali’s ex-wife, Chicago native Khalilah Camacho-Ali, and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, as well as riveting archival footage of Ali’s fiery exchanges during TV appearances that would have been viral sensations had they happened today. Rating: ★★★

“FARGO” (9 p.m. Tuesday, FX): The Coen brothers’ Oscar-winning film lives on in this 10-episode limited series that retains much of the movie’s quirky tone and Minnesota nice, even though it’s built around a different “true crime” story and features a new crop of eccentric characters. Newcomer Allison Tolman, a Chicago comedian, more than holds her own again an impressive cast that includes Billy Bob Thornton as a sufficiently creepy cold-blooded criminal, Martin Freeman (“Sherlock”) as an easily manipulated, sad-sack insurance salesman and Colin Hanks as earnest Duluth police deputy and single dad. I wish they’d make better use of Naperville native Bob Odenkirk (“Breaking Bad”), who’s capable of much more than we see in early episodes. The show’s pace is slow in spots, but the dark humor and twisted tone make it oddly compelling. Rating: ★★★½

“ORPHAN BLACK” (8 p.m. Saturday, BBC America): This wildly fun, sexy sci-fi thriller about a cloning experiment gone awry boasts one of television’s best performances — make that multiple performances — by Tatiana Maslany. The Canadian actress plays clones who look alike but have very little in common, except that they’re all in danger from mysterious factions that want to either control or kill them. This cult hit deserves mainstream success in its second season, which wastes no time diving back in to the heart-pounding action. Rating: ★★★★

“SALEM” (9 p.m. Sunday, WGN America): Witch-infested 17th century Salem, Mass., is the setting for this disturbing drama that puts shock value ahead of storytelling. It’s a poor man’s “American Horror Story: Coven” but with more shrieking and less fun. On the upside, Janet Montgomery (“Made in Jersey”) makes for an intriguing sorceress. And if you’re a fan of supernatural horror you could do worse than this period piece, the cable channel’s first foray into original series programming. Rating: ★★½

Email: lrackl@suntimes.com

Twitter: @lorirackl

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