Photos: FX

Battle Of The Root Canals (Geddit?)

Louie and Fargo both cast Stephen Root as dentists, but which DDS takes your insurance?

Two Stephen Root dentists enter; one leaves. Which one's going to make you open up and say "ha!"? Let's run the numbers.

Who is the better dentist?

This is a fairly irrelevant category, as I cannot imagine enjoying a show because of the competency of the dentistry portrayed in it. Then again, that ER spinoff ER: DDS was riveting, and MASH: Dental Unit was hilarious.

So let's compare. In Fargo, Root plays an obnoxious dentist named Bert whom Malvo is using in order to get to the brother he has in witness protection. In Louie, Root is Dr. Hepa, a dentist who is supposedly preternaturally gifted with patients who hate going to the dentist, but has a tendency to molest those patients while they're under gas. This has to go to Fargo's "Bertie Bert" (Malvo's nickname for Bert, which I hope is a nod to Jimmy James), because as far as we know, that dentist doesn't rape his patients while they're under.

Winner: Fargo Root

Which dentist is funnier?

I know the smart money here would be on the molesty Dr. Hepa, but I have to say Fargo's Bert. The surreal atmosphere of the Louie dentist vignette has some grade-A Stephen Root moments, particularly when Dr. Hepa caresses Louie's chest as he explains that he too suffers from a debilitating fear of other dentists, and unfortunately he cannot work on himself, so he's just waiting for his own teeth to rot out.

But in Fargo, Root gets to play a fantastically nerdy yokel. The joke about dentistry attracting the dull may be a bit stale, but watching Malvo and Bertie Bert shoot the yokel shit as a pair of dentist buddies is perfect. In response to a question from Malvo, Bert replies, "Do dogs smell each others butts?" Malvo responds, "I think I might have observed that type of behavior on occasion." They both laugh. We all laugh.

Winner: Fargo Root

Which show makes better use of Root?

Louie, by the nature of its format, could only use Root for half an episode; it can't be faulted for not making Dr. Hepa a series regular. Fargo, on the other hand, could have kept Bert on the show for several episodes if it had wanted, but Bert was killed off after less than ten minutes of screentime. There was no reason we couldn't have gotten to see more of Bert, even if it was just devoting more of this particular episode to his character. He didn't add too much to the plot, but he was a blast to watch.

Winner: Louie Root

Which Root appearance made me want to go back and watch all of NewsRadio?

After Root popped up in Louie, I ended up going through all of NewsRadio in the course of a month, which then led me to rewatching all of King of The Hill (one of the most underrated shows of the past 20 years). After seeing him in Fargo, I'm tempted to revisit Stephen Root's fantastic body of work, but I just don't have the time to go down another, uh, Root-hole right now.

Winner: Based on net time spent, Louie Root

The verdict

I really like Stephen Root as a Midwestern dentist. I mean, nobody plays the kooky country mouse with a hint of darkness as well as Root. Give Bertie Bert billions of dollars and a media empire and he's Jimmy James.

That said, I'm disappointed in Fargo; the show could have given us more Root, but didn't. So on principle (and because the Louie performance was very funny), I'm naming Dr. Hepa of Louie the winner of this face-off.

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