It’s not the end of the world!
Get your pins (Witchfinder Army standard issue) at the ready, pour yourself a nice tin of condensed milk and put on the Best of Queen. It’s time to have a nice and accurate look at the Good Omens TV series currently streaming on Amazon.
In the spirit of the book, co-authored by literary geniuses Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, we have our own pair of word-slinging Padawans ready to tackle the task of writing a review; @thebreadroll, a relative newcomer to the sleepy village of Tadcaster and @illustratedjill a long-time resident and former Chattering Nun.
BR: Although I’ve always been an avid reader Good Omen’s passed me by. Many times I saw it lurking on bookshelves in a selection of groovy cover designs and always thought to myself, I must read that. Now I’m not a massive fan of Terry Pratchett (please don’t kill me). Although I love the worlds and characters he creates, I just don’t enjoy his writing style. Neil Gaiman on the other hand, I am a huge fan of, so when an adaptation was announced with him involved I finally got my hands on a copy and started reading, and I have to say I loved the story and the relationship between Crowley and Aziraphale. I wish I had read it sooner!
IJ: Good Omens has been with me a long time, 16 years if I’m going to be nice and accurate about it. I’ve read it so many times its emblazoned like a heavenly script in my brain and I hold it very close to my heart. So when the TV adaptation was announced along with the roles of Aziraphale and Crowley given to Micheal Sheen and David Tennant I felt a mix of joy and fear. Don’t get me wrong I bloody love both Sheen and Tennant but I was concerned that Crowley would end up being The Doctor on his day off and when I saw a fully peroxided Sheen I started to have Tron Legacy flashbacks.
Then I watched them both on screen and I was overcome with happiness.
BR: Personally, I was eager to see David Tennant take a crack at the role right from the off. While not being a Dr Who fan (dodging some serious bullets here) I am fond of his roles as Barty Crouch Jr and his show-stealing performance as Kilgrave. As for Michael Sheen, say no more! Reading the book knowing who had been cast wasn’t much of an issue as I always try to form my own opinions of characters, but I could certainly see how each actor had the solid potential to deliver.
IJ: Tennant and Sheen really bring the characters to life and create a beautiful sort of love story. Episode 3 is almost entirely devoted to their relationship from the dawn of time to the potential end of days. The forming of The Arrangement is only really hinted at in the book, so to see their relationship evolve, and the allowances and sacrifices they make for each other, really does make it feel like a romance. I was honestly quite sad when they had their breakup at the end of the episode.
The problem is that Tennant and Sheen are so bloody good that everyone else is quite bland by comparison.
BR: For me, Crowley and Aziraphale were the best part of the book and that was the exact feeling I had with the show. Echoing @illustratedjill’s thoughts, they were so damn good that everyone else failed to stand out next to such captivating and endearing performances. That’s not to say the rest of the show was bad, I just found myself viewing most of it as filler until we got back to having Tennant or Sheen on screen. Similar to how a radio might play an awesome song by Prince then follow it up with something from Ed Sheeran before returning to greatness with one of Queen’s greatest hits… which is what every album eventually turns to.
IJ: The Them, or Adam, Pepper, Brian and Wensleydale didn’t quite cut it for me, but it also felt like a lot of their side of the story had been cut down. Anathema and Newt were good, Adria Arjona was suitably haughty and Jack Whitehall was every mother’s dream, but Shadwell and Madame Tracey were a bit of a disappointment. Michael McKean looked the part but he needed to turn his belligerent old man dial up to eleven. When I saw Miranda Richardson as Madame Tracey I was hoping for a touch of Queenie, all sauce and innuendo, but what I got was timid and bland. She definitely amped it up for the séance and possession bits but I felt somewhat let down when first introduced to them.
I also wasn’t overly keen on the supporting cast of angels and demons. Hastur and Ligur lack any real menace and I found most of their scenes, especially the bit in Megiddo utterly cringe-worthy. Although their possession of the claymation bunny cartoon in the cinema was fantastic. John Hamm lived up to his name as pantomime baddy Gabriel and whenever the other angels turned up I wanted to skip past them.
BR: In terms of support cast I too found myself enjoying Jack Whitehall (a phrase I never thought I would say) and Adria Arjona, both playing their respective roles to great effect but even the awesome Michael McKean felt like his performance was being held back. When he did start delivering classic lines and scenes from the book they were amusing and welcomed, but toned down especially to anyone who has seen his great performance as Chuck McGill.
The Them, well they were for me exactly like they were in the book. Although I wasn’t a fan of them individually, their story and purpose was every bit as necessary and essential as Crowley and Aziraphale’s, but much of this seemed to be lost in the show.
The Angels and Demons for me felt like style over substance. They all looked unique enough, especially the Demons, but they never quite lived up to the image. The book did a good job of balancing the humour with the threat but at no point (granted I knew how it was going to end) did either faction come across any more threatening than Wile E. Coyote was to The Road Runner.
IJ: I’d like to think I’ve mellowed enough to accept that some things just don’t translate to screen, and as the book is 29 years old I’m not such of a “fangirl” that I can’t see that some things have to change or be taken out completely. The Other Four Horsemen of PigBog, GBH and equally ridiculously named bikers, while being so identifiable as Terry, doesn’t really add anything. Then there are a couple of culturally insensitive bits such as Newt’s car and Madam Tracey’s spirit guide which definitely needed a change.
And then there were the tiny little inconsequential things that I’m so delighted they kept in that I positively squealed with delight. It’s such a throwaway line in the book but one of my favourite things is the whole sequence in the Bentley after Crowley and Aziraphale have just ploughed into Anathama, and Crowley’s outstandingly sardonic utterance of “O Lord, heal this bike”. I punched the air with glee when Tennant nailed that moment.
BR: Though perhaps I would have had a different experience had I read this in my younger years, I did enjoy the book and the TV show in equal measure despite a few misgivings regarding the writing style. Changes were made, as they always are, but for the most part I found them to be necessary as @illustratedjill mentioned.
This really is a show that is worth checking out and although I feel it could have done with adding a bit more oomph in places, especially around the antagonists and the Them, this is possibly the best adaptation I have seen in a long time that has managed a balanced fit for modern audiences and long-term fans. With an endearing story of friendship that everyone can enjoy, Good Omens is a book and show that will remain relevant for years to come.
IJ: Despite a few things here and there, overall I absolutely loved this. So many people are praising David Tennant but I feel like more love needs to be given to Mr Sheen. His portrayal of Aziraphale is so on the money with just the right mix of neuroses, naivety, chirpy optimism and of course, enough of a bastard to be worth knowing.
Thank you Michael Sheen, you are my Aziraphale, although I did hope your flaming sword would be… well… bigger!