29 June 2019

Good Omens

Good Omens has been turned into a TV show, it is my favourite book. I talked about why I love it on this blog over 7 years ago, and I've reread it more since then.

I wasn't sure what I expected when I heard Good Omens was finally going to be a TV series, though Neil Gaiman being heavily involved felt positive. The casting of experienced actors David Tennant and Michael Sheen as the 2 main characters was hopeful. Other casting anouncements felt more mixed to me, but the trailers were encouraging.

I watched the series on Amazon Prime one episode at a time, we don't do much binge-watching anymore. I had intended to reread the book before the TV series started, but I don't read as fast as I used to, so I was still reading the end as we watched the beginning, meaning I quoted a long with a lot of it.

I really enjoyed it. I missed some stuff that was omitted, but a lot more of the original text was in the show than I'd expected. I also really enjoyed a lot of the additions. The whole thing felt very in the spirit of the book, so that's good.

I have a lot more thoughts. I have bullet pointed them.

Crowley and Aziraphale
  • Main focus on Crowley and Aziraphale makes sense since they're the only characters there from the Beginning and also they're the stars in the cast. 
  • This focus fleshes out Heaven and Hell (Heaven especially), creating more roles for talented actors to play angels and demons, who look very different but seem equally unpleasant. 
  • Book focuses more on Crowley and Hell as the Antichrist is their operation, Aziraphale is only angel with character, so the show improves on this showing Heaven's attitude early on and rounding out Aziraphale's character.
  • TV show also depicts the evolution of Crowley and Aziraphale's relationship more clearly, from adversaries to friends, to something slashier than the books (though of course the books generated a lot of slash). It initially felt odd to me that Crowley seemed more dependent on and worried about Aziraphale than vice versa, but I realised Crowley was never as committed to being a demon, he enjoyed his job but not the people (Evil is fun, demons are not). Aziraphale on the other hand really does believe in what he's doing (it is Good after all), and so he's far more willing to hold onto a positive, hopefull view of Heaven, even if it endangers his relationship with Crowley.
  • Have I been pronouncing Crowley wrong in my head all this time? The TV show it's Crow(like the bird)-lee, whereas I'd thought of it as Crowl(rhymes with growl)-lee. Like how Ozzy Osborne sings it in Mister Crowley. Is that a West Mids thing? I think my way sounds more snaky.

The Humans
  • The focus on Crowley and Aziraphale means the human characters get shorter shrift, with less development for basically all of them. Crowley and Aziraphale do disappear a bit from the middle of the book as the affairs of humans and horsemen (or bikers) are lined up and investigated, which doesn't happen in the show. 
  • Shadwell looks and sounds too normal, but I appreciate it'd probably be difficult to cast an actor who could match with Shadwell in the book, it's a special kind of awful. Giving him a backstory also took away from the horrifying mystery that is Sergeant Shadwell of the Witchfinder Army ("I never dreamed when I was a kid"), and he seemed a bit too organised and proactive. We don't get much chance to see him through Newt's eyes which flattens him out a bit.
  • Madame Tracy wasn't as old or weathered as I'd pictured, but again TV casting is what it is. She was pretty good otherwise and I though the seance scene was very good.
  • There was more of Warlock and the Dowlings, which was fine.
  • I was worried about Jack Whitehall being cast Newton Pulsifer, but he played Newt so well I kept forgetting it was Jack Whitehall. It's probably due to the kind of performances I've seen Whitehall do in the past, but here he actually perfectly convey a man who would need to undergo a phone box transformation in order to look like Clarke Kent. Bravo to him.
  • Anathema felt a bit hard done by, and so did Agnes by extension. I get that not all of the prophecies or asides could have been included, but Agnes's prophecies and the little details about her life developed Anathema's character in the same way the details about Shadwell and the Witchfinder Army did for Newt.
  • At least we still got Giles Baddicombe (oh look, Samjeev Bhaskar), which I liked. I understand why the history of the Box was abridged, I did miss Newt putting a saucepan over his head and hiding behind the door.
  • Adam and the Them get a fair bit of screen time, but the whole Tadfeld set up is briefer. I can see why Greasy Johnson and the Johnsonites and other Tadfield miscllenia had to be removed, but I didn't realise how much f it there was until it was gone.
  • Adam felt more obviously threatening, more showy than what I'd pictured in the book, which may well be a factor of adapting for TV (though in general the book uses a of filmic tropes and audio-visual description). In my head the rise of the Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast that is called Dragon, Prince of this World, Father of Lies was more quietly terrifying and the eventual victory of Adam Young more triumphant for it. 
  • I was a little surprised the book didn't have more of an environmental message. That's always struck me as a big part of the book, and Adam's rise to his powers is sparked by his realisation of what's been allowed to happen. Goodness knows the anger of youth at the folly and apathy of their elders is a very fitting theme for a show made nowadays.
  • Following on from this, I missed Jaime Hernez, the Brazilian mall maintenance worker who helps a light-starved tree, that was a nice bit. I'm glad the Atlanteans and Japanese whaling ship and Kraken were featured, but Jaime was the main heroic human character from those one-off sections.
  • Adam didn't mention Heaven (Aziraphale) and Hell (Crowley) messing people around, which struck me as missing another major point the book made. I like that fact that the angel and demon talk about it later and come to realise their complicity in how humanity has turned out.

Horsemen (and Bikers) of the Apocalypse
  • The Delivery Man was taller and slimmer I'd imgained. I'd always pictured  It was nice that they showed his wife though.
  • I'm fine with the fact that each of the Horsemen only got 1 section each, they weren't much in the way of characters.
  • I'm OK with the Other Bikers of the Apocalypse being cut. That section was so much from Pigbog's point of view that it would be difficult to do on screen, especially without somehow introducing him earlier.
  • I did miss the rain of fish and the octopus that waves at the shocked policemen

Many Diuerse Wonders and Precepts for the Wife
  • Using the voice of God to do the narration means that a lot more of the jokes were included than I was expecting, so that was good. Initially I felt as though the narrative gave the show a bit of a Hitchhikers feel.
  • There were a lot more women and people of colour in the cast than I'd pictured, which says more about me than anything else. There's some stuff in the book that was a bit iffy (mostly displaying the casual racism and small-mindedness of some characters) and that stuff was gone, but I did 't miss it.
  • Watching the show is the first time I got the bit about the Nightingale in Berkley Square. I mean, I knew it was a reference to a song, but I didn't know the lyrics so didn't get the connection to angels dining at the Ritz until they played it.
  • The theme tune was a lot of fun, the visuals were reminscent of some Python stuff.
  • I like the addition of the ending, it felt very good that Crowley and Aziraphale took the next stuff in their collusion and actually backed each other aginst their superiors. Plus it makes more sense with the militancy and control we see from Heaven and Hell in the show that they would try to punish their rogue agents.
  • I can't rememeber if Aziraphale says the bit about Evil containing the seeds of it's own destruction in the show (it's been a bit since I saw the show, I'm slow to write things up nowadays), but I thought of it when Crowley has trouble crossing the M25 because of his own actions in shaping it to be evil. Also there was a thing with the mobile phone networks, but that's more obvious.

Is it weird that I used my husband's (hardback and unbattered) copy of Good Omens to check some stuff for this post and was disconcerted by the typeface and formatting being different.

No comments:

Post a comment