God damn this is so much better than we deserve.
As a gift in college, I recieved Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. I didnt know who either Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman were. And, I went into the book completely blind. To no ones surprise, I immediately fell in love with it. Especially at the time, anything that was flippant about religion I was down with, and this definitely took the piss out of it.
I feel like this story is not uncommon. Good Omens seems to be the gateway drug into the worlds of both of these writers. It definitely worked on me. I picked up Sandman and started down the Discworld road after that.
I even remember at that time people discussing a Good Omens adaptation with Robin Williams in the Aziraphale role. That sort of faded away, and I forgot about an adaptation for a while. It continued to be a book I recommended to people. For a while it was my go to when people asked me for recommendations. And so, that leads us to today
Generally speaking, when something is in development hell for as long as Good Omens was, it doesn’t turn out great on the other end. Oh thank god we were all wrong. This thing is fantastic. It isn’t flawless by any stretch, but its a nice ride. Six episodes and it moves at a clip.
Lets start there. Netflix has this problem generally where they overbloat their series to get more content. Stretch them out to make you have to sit through more of it to see how it ends. Pretty much all the Marvel series are guilty of this. With Neil Gaiman himself writing every single fucking episode, we dont have this problem. 0 Bloat here. This is clean all the way through. Feels like the book. Hits all the notes. Crisp, moves quick. Its something I can easily see myself rewatching without it being a slong.
Second, the tone is perfect.
I saw one reviewer that said the series was too “cartoon-ish.” To which I said, have you fucking read a Terry Pratchett book. The tone is 100% spot on. Lots of beaurocratic nightmares mucking up the works, and plenty of silliness. I wouldnt describe it as cartoon-y at all, but it is silly. In that Python kind of way that its supposed to be. I remember turning to my wife 20 min into the first episode and saying, “how the fuck did they hit the nail so well on the head.” But they did it.
The acting is of course the easiest thing to write about. David Tennant and Michael Sheen are naturals. The fact that they have so much chemistry together I think is a testement to how strong actors they are. Sure some chemistry is natural. Sometimes its fucking talent. ANd these cats are so goddamn talented its gross. They both feel like they were born to play Crowley and Aziraphale, respectively. Every second they are on screen is a joy.
But, I want to give credit to the rest of the cast. God damn they stacked the deck and everyone brought their A game. Michael McKean as the Witchfinder Sargent is chewing the scenery in every goddamn scene he’s in, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Adria Arjona as Anathema Device is spot on note perfect to the book, and I really hope she gets of ton of more work from this. And of course, I have to shout out, my man, Jon Hamm. Gabriel isnt really a major part in the book. But when you get a hero like Jon Hamm, you have to do it up big, and Gaiman’s writing doesnt dissapoint. Everytime Hamm is on screen, its a joy.
So, what keeps it from flawless perfection. Well, it falls in the adaption. This is a book that feels like it should be straight forward to adapt. Alas, half of the jokes lie in the way its written. The show deals with this by having Frances McDormand as God, give tons and tons of narration. Mostly this is fine, its just sometimes the joke being read straight out loud, and it doest have the same impact.
Said differently, in an effort to keep the adaptation as close to the book as possible, they shove in material that just wont work directly. The best example i can give is the introduction of Thou-shalt-not-commit-adultery Pulsifer. In the book its this really funny story about…well adultery. In the show, its read outloud both by narration and a dialogue on the way to burn Agnes Nutter. And it…just isnt as funny. Not to say its weighs the show down or feels cheap. Its just, not the right format.
And there is something like this in just about every episode. Where the joke just doesn’t quite land.
Oh also, they never fucking explain the Queen bit. It happens exactly in the moments in the book that it should, but no one ever talks about it. Shame!
But these are minor nitpicks for the thing that should stand as an achievement. They did it. We now have a great Good Omens adaptation. Rejoice!
3.5/4 – A fantastic watch from beginning to end, and Ill be rewatching it again soon.