Maybe 30 years ago or so, I was covering the American Booksellers Association convention. Among the treats of the crowded zoo were the Uncorrected Publishers Editions of books that they gave away. I picked up a few. One was a gem, of the Secret Diary of Adrian Mole series by Sue Townsend. I’d never heard of them, and it was SO funny and insightful I ended up reading several others – the tales of an awkward, shy British kid who has dreams of being the poet laureate of the BBC.
Another than intrigued me as a fantasy novel, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. It looked interesting. Both men were successful novelists on their own. Neil Gaiman wrote the books that the animated film Coraline and Starz series American Gods were based on, and also the TV series Lucifer is based on his characters. Terry Pratchett wrote the novel Going Postal – the 33rd book in his Discworld series -- that was the basis of the 2-part British mini-series – one of the most wildly-imaginative and fun TV films I’ve ever seen. (You can find it here on Netflix here.) But that Uncorrected Publishers Edition of Good Omens sat on my To Read shelf for around 20 years! (Hey, at least I kept it...)
About 10 years ago I finally had enough of procrastination and got around to reading Good Omens, and it was well-worth the wait, and I should have read it years earlier. It’s a very funny story, clever, pointed, rich and often hilarious. It tells the story of the birth of the Antichrist getting screwed up in the hospital, with the child being raised unknowingly by a nice, middle-class British couple, and 11 years later with Armageddon on the horizon, as demon, angel and counter-culture, occultist witch team up to stave it off.
And now, after many years of trying (Terry Gilliam wanted to make a film of it) and Neil Gaiman turning down offers after Terry Pratchett passed away, a six-part mini-series has been made of the book for Amazon Prime, premiering this Friday.
I have no idea how good it will be but – a) the book was wonderful, b) it’s getting good reviews, c) it’s a tough story to pull off, and d) boy, howdy does it ever have a great cast.
The wistful, flighty angel is played by Michael Sheen, with the demon who wants to save Earth because he's having too good a time is played by David Tennant, one of the more popular actors to be 'Dr. Who.'
That's a really terrific start. But the supporting cast also includes -- Benedict Cumberbatch as Satan, Frances McDormand as God, Brian Cox as Death, and Jon Hamm as a somewhat dim Archangel Gabriel, along with Derek Jacobi, Michael McKean, Nick Offerman, Miranda Richardson, and Jack Whitehall (a British comedian/actor I like very much, playing Newton Pulsifer, a sort of bewildered private witchfinder).
Great cast. Wonderful novel. And here's hoping a joyous series.
Here's the official trailer, followed immediately by the subsequent trailer that was put out, to make -- as it notes below -- a longer, extended trailer. (Two comments: the trailer makes it look like the young Antichrist is leading the way to Armageddon, though in fact -- because of how he was raised as a good kid in a middle-class British household -- he really has never had a clue who he is, although as the End of Times nears, some changes take place. And also, though there is definitely some humor and whimsy in the trailer, they focus more on the coming destruction. Though it's possible that's also the focus of the series, with humor in the background, since it has to compress the novel, my sense is that it's more a case of making the trailer as devilishly dramatic as as they can, and the series, while still most-definitely a drama about the end of the world, will have as much fun as the book.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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