Terry Pratchett has an impressive gift for stringing words together. The man could make the back of a cereal box interesting to read. His brain works in strange ways that follow clever paths, a trait that helps him paper over the thinness of his works’ overall plots and characters and underlying worldview. That wizardry doesn’t lend itself to translation to the screen, particularly when the producers of said translation choose to translate Pratchett’s words literally.
This series opens with a long spiel and a cute animatic that explains the literal translation of Genesis is the literal history of the world in Pratchett’s style. Smash cut to an overhead view of the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve which tells us the exact same thing AGAIN, only this time without all the self-congratulatory clever-clever voice-over. It doesn’t establish a mood, it just insults the viewer. The same thing happens later in the episode when the birth of the anti-Christ goes awry with said anti-Christ switched at birth with a normie baby. Rather than let the gag play out, the producers inject a heavy-handed explanation of three-card monte that ruins the flow of the story and again, insults the viewer. Not done yet, they later show a dark and foggy cemetery where two diseased snakes-like men wriggle out of the earth to meet with David Tenant’s demonic character, and hold up – gotta tell everyone these are demons!
Just in case.
Stick it out, and you get a very clever show that plays itself to mediocrity. Propped up entirely by the performances of the slithering demon of David Tennant and the twee guardian angel of Michael Sheen, it features all the usual gender-swapped silliness of the BBC and Hollywood complete with a bumbling white male witchfinder seduced by a world-wise and not-at-all-author-insert witch. The Christian witch-finder is a scam artist and a hypocrite, as all voluble Christians are in modren media these days. All of these little nods to progressive fantasies step on the toes of the central fantasy tale they want to tell and lead to the usual emptiness and lack of viewer investment in the world. Nothing means anything. Everything is strange and hollow and unpredictable in all the worst ways.
I’ll say this, though, it handled the crucifixion of Christ with admirable restraint. The scene where our angel and demon watch with evident confusion proves to be the most suspenseful scene in the first four episodes. Accidentally. The suspense arises not from the level of the narrative, but from the meta-level of wondering how the producers are going to smarm and snark their way through one of the central holiest events in the history of Christendom. That tension – will they or won’t they – sucks the energy out of the scene on screen.
Perhaps it isn’t fair to lay the blame at the feet of the writers of Good Omens. They have inherited a new world where the intersectionalists thought that forcing everyone to constantly weigh every production choice would lead to the surrender of the cis-hetero-patriarchal zeitgeist. Instead, they gave us the tools and excuse to notice how we’ve been played by Hollywood for decades. And in encouraging us to notice things, they played themselves.
They have ruined their best tool for keeping us asleep while the culture boils around us.
Now we know.
And we notice that what might have been great is just another polished turd more interested in scoring points on those dastardly Christians than telling a good story.
It’s so bad that I didn’t get angry or turn off the show in disgust. I just went to bed and completely forgot to watch the next episode. It’s just another show with no heart in a long string of shows with no heart.
Come for the Tennant. Leave for the lack of everything else.