Other Media Review

Guest Squee: Good Omens (2019)

This guest review comes from Rhoda Baxter! Rhoda writes contemporary romantic comedies about smart women and nice guy heroes. She also writes multicultural women’s fiction as Jeevani Charika. Her latest Christmas novella is Christmas for Commitmentphobes. Rhoda can be found on her website or on Twitter (@rhodabaxter).

Good Omens is being shown on TV in the UK. It’s been available on Amazon Prime for months and on DVD since November. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m mildly obsessed with it.

I first read Good Omens when it came out in paperback all the way back in the 90s. I had never heard of Neil Gaiman, but I loved Terry Pratchett. It’s one of the few books that I’ve re-read many times because it makes me laugh every time. As a fan, I was wary when they said it was going to be adapted for TV … but then less wary when I heard that Neil Gaiman would be writing the adaptation. Now, having seen it, I think that maybe the adaptation is even better than the book.

For those who don’t know it, Good Omens is the story of an angel (Aziraphale) and a demon (Crowley) who have been on earth doing good/bad deeds for six thousand years. Despite having to work against each other, they’ve been the only two celestial beings in the area for so long that they’ve become friends. They’ve become quite fond of the world and the humans too, so when Armageddon finally kicks off, they don’t want the world to end. But it’s all part of the Great Plan and God’s plans are always Ineffable.

As angel and demon conspire to prevent the end of the world, they have to keep their respective bosses – the archangel Gabriel (played by John Hamm) and the demon Beelzabub (played by Anna Maxwell-Martin) – happy. The bosses are portrayed as that middle manager that used to annoy you at work. You know the one.

Oh, yeah, that guy

John Hamm smiling insincerely and squinting his eyes at Sheen

Of the subplots, the least convincing was the romance between the young witchfinder private Newt Pulsifer and the equally young witch, Anathema Device. They just didn’t have the chemistry that two leads had. But the four kids who play the Them are perfectly cast in their roles.

The special effects are impressive, but it’s also worth noting the music. There’s quite a lot of Queen – any CD left in Crowley’s car for any length of time eventually turns into Bohemian Rhapsody. At the end of each episode, the credits are played out to the theme tune in different styles.

Both the book and the TV show are very British. There are a lot of quaint villages and apple trees and red phone boxes. London is almost as much a character as it is a setting. There are monsters (demons, a hellhound, a devil), but nothing too horrifying. There’s fantasy violence, but not much gore. There is, however, coarse language. Being British, there are plenty of ‘bloody’s’ liberally sprinkled about and a couple of F bombs (both very funny in context).

The casting is remarkable. I adore David Tennant anyway and I’d watch him in just about anything, but Micheal Sheen was a revelation. The pair are evenly matched and have great chemistry on screen. Daivd Tennant is a loose hipped, louche Crowley and Micheal Sheen is an uptight, fussy Aziraphale and they are adorable together. Miranda Richardson plays Madame Tracy, medium and part time sex worker. I’m always in awe when actors play each other and her turn as Madame Tracy possessed by Aziraphale was amazing.

The adaptation remains faithful to the book for the most part. What raises it above the book is that Gaiman has added a romance subplot into the relationship between angel and demon. Episode three starts with a long opening sequence that tracks their relationship over 6000 years and it’s a mini romance told in fifteen minutes. When Aziraphale says “You go too fast for me, Crowley”, I squealed out loud (much to the surprise of my husband – not a romance reader). Since they are not human and the book is very clear on the fact that angels and demons are sexless, it’s a slow burn, but the tension is wonderful.

Awww

Aziraphale holding his wing over the other's head to shield him from the rain

There is an epilogue in the TV show that isn’t in the book, which sets up a second series. Neil Gaiman is involved again, and the same actors, so I’m looking forward to that.

Until then, I’ll have to be content with browsing Etsy for Ineffable Husbands fan art.

Cheers to that!

The two of them clinking glasses of champagne

What about you? Have you watched Good Omens? Are you obsessed, too?

 

Add Your Comment →

  1. 1
    quizzabella says:
    1+

    Absolutely loving it. I’ll read any thing Neil Gaiman writes and watch anything with David Tennant in it. Michael Sheen is brilliant and as a Brit there is a lot that feels hilariously cozy even when it’s about the end of the world.

  2. 2
    Pre-Successful Indie says:
    2+

    All of this!! I’d also like to recommend this take/squee on gender expression in the series. The gist is, though all the angels and demons are technically genderless, they express themselves in a lot of different ways, and that is awesome.

    https://thegeekiary.com/good-omens-radical-take-on-non-binary-representation/68751

  3. 3
    Claire says:
    1+

    I read the book right before watching the show, and while I loved the book, I *adored* the show. The extra long cold open, showing Aziraphale’s and Crowley’s slow burn over the centuries had me squeeing with delight (much to the consternation of my cats), and I’m pretty sure I rewatched all the scenes between them half a dozen times.

  4. 4
    SusanH says:
    1+

    I’m a long time fan of Good Omens and both authors. I was so pleased with this production! It really brings the novel to life beautifully, and the casting is perfect. My husband and I watched it with my three oldest kids, who are all fans of the novel, and we all loved it.

    For those who can’t get enough of the leads, Tennant interviewed both Sheen and Hamm (separately) on his excellent podcast (David Tennant Does a Podcast). He’s a surprisingly good interviewer, and Michael Sheen was both thoughtful and hilarious in his.

  5. 5
    Escapeologist says:
    1+

    I hadn’t heard the talk about a second series! At first I was like, no, don’t mess with perfection – but then found out Neil and Terry already had the second book outlined.

    https://www.digitalspy.com/tv/a30539656/good-omens-season-2-neil-gaiman-problem/

  6. 6
    Escapeologist says:
    1+

    @Pre-Successful Indie – thank you for the link, I love this:

    “…beauty doesn’t lie in a binary. It lies in all the colors swirling together to create something truly magnificent.”

    Speaking of beautiful colors:
    https://www.tor.com/2019/02/11/how-she-ra-steven-universe-and-the-world-of-animation-speak-to-my-genderfluidity/

  7. 7
    denise says:
    1+

    I’ve never seen it, but it’s intriguing.

  8. 8
    Lisa F says:
    1+

    I watched this show with my best friend, which is about the optimal way to do it.

  9. 9
    Christa says:
    1+

    I did complicated (but legal) things to gain access to this show, pplthen watched it on my phone, laughing and crying and loudly commenting all the way through – instantly rewatched it after that, this time on my laptop – then got the DVD and made my husband share it with me as a birthday gift (to me). Loved it so much, wanted to endlessly talk about it, but no one else has seen it. So – thanks for the guest squee and the comments. Makes me remember it all again. All the feels. That friendship must be among the most romantic things I have ever witnessed. And yes, „David Tennant does a Podcast“ is amazing, especially if you – like me – are into looking behind the scenes.

  10. 10
    Janine says:
    1+

    I thought this was one of the rare cases where the book and series were equally excellent, although each with their own strengths. The only thing that didn’t work for me was Frances McDormand as the voice of God. Her voice was just too far from the British voice (much like that of Terry Pratchett himself) that I’ve always imagined as the narrator of the book.

  11. 11
    Brooke says:
    1+

    Does anyone know when it will be broadcast in the US? I don’t have Amazon Prime. Love, love, love the book. I’ve been both eagerly waiting to see the series and worried about seeing the series. 🙂

  12. 12
    Kris Bock says:
    1+

    Thanks for the reminder. This is one of my favorite books. I’m not sure my husband was interested in the TV show, and I rarely watch TV without him (I read instead), but we were noting tonight that we need something new to watch, so I’ll have to get him to try it!

  13. 13
    Marg says:
    1+

    I hadn’t heard anything about a second series, but you can be sure I will be all over it when it comes out!

  14. 14
    Jennifer says:
    1+

    I adore Good Omens. I enjoy fanfic, both reading and writing it, and the Good Omens fandom has been amazing. It’s helped me really get that gender is a spectrum and better understand how that works. It’s also lead to some introspection on how I think about and phrase certain things and I’m a better person for it. I don’t know if I should admit to how many times my world view has been radically altered by reading a book, although this would be a safe space to do so. I wouldn’t want to encourage negative groups of people to censor books because they *gasp* make people think.

    If you can’t get enough Good Omens, there’s also a radio dramatization that’s wonderful. It has Colin Morgan (Merlin from the TV show Merlin) as Newton and Josie Lawrence as Agnes (she’s also Agnes in the Good Omens TV show), and cameos by Terry and Neil.

  15. 15
    SB Sarah says:
    1+

    This show was such a gift. After I edited this review (and looked at far, far too many gifs) I suggested we watch it on a recent Friday night. Usually my kids watch their own things, but by the end of the first episode, we were all really enjoying it, and ended up watching the entire six-episode series together. That NEVER happens. We just don’t like the same things, but for all of us to be engaged on different levels (there was a lot of ‘Okay, Mom’ when I got all giddy at the romantic or angsty moments) was so fun, and so unexpected. I really loved the series, and I loved that we all got to enjoy it together even more. Like I said, the series and the watching of it was a gift – thank you, Rhoda!

  16. 16
    Escapeologist says:
    1+

    @SB Sarah – I’ve been debating whether to watch this with my kid! She is 11 going on 30. Guess I’ll try and see what happens.

    For any other parents in the same boat, here are some shows we have enjoyed watching together – the Dragon Prince on Netflix, Ronja the Robber’s Daughter on Amazon prime, and America’s Got Talent.

  17. 17
    Lexica says:
    1+

    @Brooke – the show is available on Amazon (and included with Prime membership) in the US.

  18. 18
    Rhoda Baxter says:
    1+

    @Brooke you can get on DVD on Amazon. (My copy came with four post cards of scenes from the show). I’ve watched mine often enough for it to have been a really good investment!

    The radio adaptation is brilliant too.

    @LisaF – watching it with your best friend is DEFINITELY the best way to watch it.

  19. 19
    Rhoda Baxter says:
    1+

    @pre Successful Indie – I just read the article about non binary rep in Good Omens and it’s the such a beautiful thing! I shall be sharing widely. Thanks for pointing it out.

  20. 20
    Sharon says:
    1+

    Am I obsessed with Good Omens? Oh yes! I’ve been reading nothing but Aziraphale/Crowley fanfic since last summer! I adore this show so much (and the book was pretty good too!)

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