Title: Good Omens
Release Date: 2019
Creator and Writer: Neil Gaiman
Director: Douglas Mackinnon
Production Company: Narrativia | The Blank Corporation | Amazon Studios | BBC Studios
Having finished re-reading the Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman novel Good Omens, I binged the miniseries adaptation on Amazon Prime. It’s largely entertaining, and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from watching it, but it’s a bit disappointing based on the source material and the talent involved in producing the adaptation.
The strength of Good Omens is the casting of David Tennant and Michael Sheen as the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale who team up to try prevent Armageddon. The miniseries increases the focus on these two characters and their centuries-long friendship, which is a good decision because they are talented comic actors who fill their characters fully.
Unfortunately, the adaptation is almost too faithful to the book. Several scenes feature dialogue word-for-word from the book. There is a lot of heavy foreshadowing of gags to come, and excess narration from Frances McDormand as God. While the authors of the book enjoyed digressing into silly tangents featuring supporting characters, the straight adaptation of these scenes to tv just don’t work as well. There’s too much icing on the cake!
Good Omens the novel was published in 1990. While the tv series is not a period piece set in the 90s, there’s only a slight effort to update the story to the present day, so it comes off feeling dated. I think the satirical take on pop culture tropes was groundbreaking in 1990, but has become commonplace in the ensuing decades, so that Good Omens the tv show is the victim of the success of Good Omens the book.
A ton of notable actors from the UK in the US appear as supporting cast and cameo roles. These include Nick Offerman, Anna Maxwell Martin, Jon Hamm (as the Archangel Gabriel, a role greatly expanded from the novel, and one of the strongest parts apart from Tennant and Sheen), Miranda Richardson, Michael Mckean, Bill Paterson, Mark Gattis, David Morrisey, Derek Jacobi, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Josie Lawrence. Again, there is nothing wrong with any of these performances, but it often feels as if the creators of the miniseries weren’t ambitious enough to go beyond eliciting the reaction of “hey, there’s that funny actor I like doing something funny.” No one really inhabits their roles the way that Sheen and Tennant do.
There is some promise in some of the lesser known actors, for example, Adria Arjona as Anathema Device. She seems to be weighed down by having to do nothing more and nothing less than what was written for her character in the book. Ironically, Anathema’s character’s life was defined by following the predictions written in a book by her ancestor, so it’s sad that Arjona was similarly constrained.
Okay, this sounds like a bad review. But, again, Good Omens was a perfectly fine show to binge over a few days. It’s only six episodes long, which may actually be one episode too long for the material, but nonetheless a worthwhile enjoyment.