Fantasy Comedy / TV Series
Is It Worth Watching? Only if you are curious.
When Amazon announced they were doing Good Omens I was thrilled. When they said Neil Gaiman will be writing it I was doubly thrilled. I loved the book. I loved Terry Pratchett. And I love Neil Gaiman. Then H said, ‘No one’s ever been able to adapt Terry Pratchett successfully.’ I replied, ‘This time it’s different. Neil Gaiman is doing it.’ Oh the ignominy of being proved wrong to your spouse!
I tried. I tried so hard to like it. I wanted to like it. But from the very first episode a part of my brain was saying it’s wrong. They’ve messed it up. But twitter was buzzing with rave reviews. Surely, I must have missed something, I wondered. I continued watching. But episode after episode was like being hit on the head by a lead balloon. This is what went wrong with the program:
It’s Not Funny
How can Terry Pratchett not be funny, you ask? Which is the question I was asking myself as I sat there not cracking a single smile. For a start, every joke was about good and evil, angels and demons. Not once did they try something different. Michael Sheen‘s angel stopping itself from saying, ‘No rest for the wicked.’ Or David Tennant‘s demon accusing him of a holier-than-thou attitude only to be reminded that Michael Sheen is indeed holier than him. If this vein of comedy wasn’t bad enough, entire scenes are orchestrated for that one punch-line which always falls short of being even mildly amusing. It is a classic case of trying too hard.
Why the narration?
Why, oh why is there a narration? Is it for those who haven’t read the book? Or those who cannot understand what’t going on even though it’s bleeding obvious? Or those who have no idea what apocalypse means? Frances McDormand is great as the voice of God and narrates with the subtlest of inflexions, which, to be honest, is probably the best acting in the whole show. But the narration just breaks the flow which is stilted to begin with.
When is this supposed to be set?
It seems like the director couldn’t make up his mind as to which decade the show is set in. The scene where the antichrist is to be delivered to the nuns looks to be set in the sixties, what with the old-style cars and clothes, until David Tennant starts talking about cell phones and you think, huh? This discrepancy carries on through out the show. Every time Tadfield — the village at the centre of the apocalypse plot — is shown we seem to travel back in time. In order to portray it as a quintessential and quaint English village, consistency has been sacrificed. And why do Crowley and Aziraphale keep calling each other on their landlines? Who uses landlines any more or leave messages on the answering machine? They just haven’t adapted this book to the modern times as well as American Gods.
The story is about the end of the world, but there is zero tension. It’s a bloody comedy, you say. And I take your point, but the original book had the tension. I cared enough about every single character to know what would happen to them and how it would all be resolved. But in Good Omens the rest of the characters have been set aside for the bromance of Tennant and Sheen. The scenes where they are together are the only ones which seem to matter; the rest just drag on. And when they are together, it’s just one bad joke after another. Case in point: the scene where Crowley (Tennant) is using holy water to make his escape. It should have been suspenseful and exhilarating, but it was neither. They signposted it so much that all subtlety was lost and with it the tension.
I know there are a lot of Dr Who fans who like David Tennant’s gurning style of acting. I, myself, thought he was quite brilliant in Jessica Jones as Kilgrave. But in Good Omens, he has upped the level of gurning to beyond comical. He is so loud and over the top that in the scene where he’s grieving for Sheen’s Aziraphale, he just comes across as pathetic and insincere. The other actors are no better, except Michael Sheen and Jon Hamm. The Four Horsemen (or motorcyclists, in this case) were pretty awesome (it was a good touch to replace Pestilence with Pollution) but under-utilised. It seems to me the creators of the show decided to get big names and left them to do their own thing, interpret each scene how they would like, and the direction took a back seat. The result is disappointing.