Good Omens, Episode One

Some minor Spoilers

I watched the first episode of the new, Amazon produced, Good Omens TV series last night. It’s been a few years, but I have read the novel, co-written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, about three times. I’m only familiar with a few of Pratchett’s many novels, but I’ve read almost all of Gaiman’s work. I’m also deeply familiar with (and heavily influenced by) Douglas Adams, who is a looming presence over Good Omens even though he had nothing to do with writing it.

The mini-series is six episodes, which is a good length for a novel adaptation, but I found the pacing a little too quick for a first episode. There is a lot of exposition to get through without quite enough time for the book’s world-building to sink in. The episode ends further along in the story than one might expect, but also with having skipped more plot than you’d think was necessary — at least as a recall things. Future episodes may fill those elements in. I felt the actual introduction of Adam and his circle of friends came too abruptly at the episodes conclusion. They are the real heart of the book and we need to get to know and care about them for the story to work as anything more than a wacky pantomime.

It only just occurred to me that the story of Adam and his friends (“Them” as they are known by their neighbors) might be considered part of the “Kids on Bikes” genre of weird tale, popularized by Stranger Things but with deeper roots. Something to think about…

The influence of Douglas Adams is everywhere in the “Good Omen” novel. Adams was part of a tradition of English humor going back at least to Jerome K. Jerome’s “Three Men in Boat,” but his style of bringing comedy to sci-if and fantasy can overwhelm anyone who has tried it since. Often in “Good Omens” one has to remind oneself that the voice-over is *not* the narrative incarnation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that structures Adams’epic. The wry tone and sardonic humor are almost identical at times.

My impression when I read the book was that there were distinctly Pratchett parts and Gaiman parts. I have no supporting evidence for this but it I felt the early parts when Pratchett, trying to put a Adams spin on a fantasy story, while the middle, the story of Adam and Them, were more Gaiman — or rather Gaiman trying to put a Ray Bradbury spin on those sections. My apologies to both authors if my premise is flawed from the start.

I am certainly going to keep watch the series, as it is off to a good start, given the massive challenges there are in even attempting it. At one point Terry Gilliam was considering a film version starring Robin Williams and Johnny Dept. It’s hard to imagine how that would have turned out.