One of my favourite authors, since the mid 80s, has been Terry Pratchett, and looking back on his work, I realise his books have influenced me significantly. Buried in the humour and wit there is always a core of morality, and I realise it’s left its mark. I have all his books in hardback, and most are signed. I collect the Clarecraft figures. I adore the Discworld canon. But I digress.
Good Omens appeared as a book in 1990, and is a collaboration between Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Much has been written of their history and friendship, and I do recommend you read the back story.
I also wholeheartedly recommend reading the book. It’s funny, thought provoking and utterly entertaining: it is one of the only books my 15 year old son will read, and re-read, and laugh out loud at.
It was converted into a Radio 4 adaptation too, and that is without doubt one of the very best crossovers I have ever heard. It works perfectly, and the casting, and performances, are wonderful.
Over the years there have been rumours that Good Omens would be made into a film. This news excited me, but then failed to deliver and I must admit I thought it simply wouldn’t happen…
…but then, following Terry’s death, it was announced that Amazon and the BBC would release a 6 part mini series, written by Gaiman. The story goes that Neil left the funeral, went home, and started writing. There’s a fantastic piece in the SMH that covers the inception and creation beautifully, and I suggest you read it.
After the Ready Player One experience, I was worried. For Good Omens, I’ve recently read the book, and listened to the adaptation, and the TV series couldn’t be as good as either: it simply can’t work as well as the radio series, the bar is too high, and the book is epic.
First off, the casting has to be covered. Putting David Tennant in the role of a demon – an angel who didn’t so much fall as saunter vaguely downwards – seemed obvious. Michael Sheen, who I know from Frost/Nixon and the Damned United as a pragmatic bibliophilic angel? I wasn’t sure. Jack Whitehall as a witchfinder will work. I didn’t know Adria Arjona, or many of the other cast.
By ‘eck they’re good though. As a fan of the book, I’d say every actor has added to the characterisation, and taken nothing away. They are damnably good.
Then the story. No, it’s not exactly the book, but it can’t be and it shouldn’t have been. The expansion of the role of Gabriel, the new prophesy, the back story, just everything works. And adds to it.
Round it off with enough barely hidden references that we’ll be getting and geeking out on for months to come and it really is a wonderful piece of work. Add in extra dimensions, extensions and riffs on the theme and it’s genuinely one of the best things I think I’ve seen. Ever. That Tori Amos is involved, and referenced in the fight with War, is exquisite.
It’s unashamedly geeky, and I would love to know how it fares commercially given it is reliant on a fair amount of in jokes: coming cold to it, I wonder how many will think it’s a little up itself, but for Pratchett and Gaiman fans it is TV Nirvana.