Must-see TV: Minnesota on the small screen

Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons
Kirsten Dunst as Peggy and Jesse Plemons as Ed in season two of FX's "Fargo."
Courtesy of FX

Minnesota returns to the small screen Monday when the second season of the Emmy-winning "Fargo" premieres on FX.

Exciting? You betcha.

Last season, the crime drama took place in Duluth and Bemidji. This year's setting is Sioux Falls, S.D., and Luverne, Minn., in 1979.

It's not the first time the North Star State has figured prominently on must-see TV — and the state might soon get more chances to shine. Not one, but two dramas set in Minnesota are in the works.

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Last year, reported that Stillwater could be featured in an HBO drama bearing the town's name. The show will follow a New York cop "as his life spirals out of control when he relocates his family to a small town in Minnesota."

Meanwhile, the next hot crime serial could be "Minnesota," based on a trilogy of books by novelist Vidar Sundstol. "'Minnesota' will revolve around the murder of a Norwegian tourist who turns up on the shore of Lake Superior in a case with links to a crime dating back 100 years," Variety reported.

Here's a look at other TV shows set in Minnesota through the years. Some were wildly successful. Others? Um, well, at least they didn't embarrass us too much.

"The Mary Tyler Moore Show"

Mary Tyler Moore statue
A bronze statue depicting TV character Mary Richards tossing her hat on Nicollet Mall at Seventh Street in downtown Minneapolis. The statue, dedicated in May 2002, honors the iconic legacy of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
Mitch Rossow

Love was all around this groundbreaking sitcom about a local television news producer. (Sorry — had to make at least one joke.)

It's perhaps the most well-known — and beloved — of all TV shows set in Minnesota. It was praised by critics, won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series three years in a row, and the opening credits, with Moore's famous hat toss, were immortalized in a statue on Nicollet Mall (although it's temporarily in storage during the street's renovation).

"Little House on the Prairie"

Walnut Grove was the setting for the television adaptation of Laura Ingalls Wilder's novels, which ran from 1974 to 1983.

The family's first home in Minnesota was a dugout on the banks of Plum Creek. All that remains now of the dugout site is a deep depression in the ground that's now open to visitors.

Tourists can also visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, which includes a replica of the dugout and memorabilia from the TV show.


Debuting in 1989, the sitcom starred Craig T. Nelson as — what else — the head coach of the fictional Minnesota State University Screaming Eagles football team. It aired for nine seasons on ABC, and Nelson won an Emmy for his role as Hayden Fox.

The comedy almost came back. NBC ordered a reboot in March only to bench the revival series months later.

"The Big C"

Laura Linney starred in this Showtime series about a Twin Cities mother diagnosed with terminal melanoma. Linney went on to win an Emmy for the show's fourth and final season.

The show's creator told the Star Tribune the Minnesota setting was key.

"It had to be a city with distinct seasons, because it's about a woman going through seasons of life. Setting it in L.A. definitely wouldn't do it," she said.

Take that, Los Angeles.

"Mall Cops: Mall of America"

Was this the "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" effect?

Mall cops
Beau Johnson, right, a field training officer at the Mall of America, followed by a TLC film crew, bumped into another mall cop, Adam Kedrowski, left, who's also being followed by a TLC film crew.
Jean Pieri | Pioneer Press via AP 2009

A one-hour pilot about the security team at the gigantic shopping center aired in October 2009 on TLC and the 12-part series debuted the following spring. Episodes dealt with Black Friday, Sarah Palin's visit and, of course, the threat of a major snowstorm. This is Minnesota, after all.

The Hollywood Reporter called the show, well, boring:

"It's just that their law enforcement duties consist mainly of giving directions, helping to find parked cars, telling people not to be weird and shooing the occasional drunk out of the mall (and onto public transportation).

"Even reality producers, experts at injecting drama, conflict and significance into scenes where there are none, may have met their match with this 12-episode series."

So no, there wasn't a "Mall Cops 2: Return to Mall of America."

"The Tom Show"

Tom Arnold's comedy about a Los Angeles TV producer who moved back to his hometown of St. Paul following his divorce lasted only one season on The WB.

"Get a Life"

We're not entirely sure this Fox sitcom was actually set in Minnesota, but comedian Chris Elliott played a 30-something paperboy for the Pioneer Press. See him in action (with several glimpses of the Pioneer Press logo) in the show's opening credits.

The show lasted two seasons.