Martin Carr reviews the first episode of Good Omens…
Celestial mismanagement, a misplaced baby Beelzebub and friendships between biblical opponents provide the farcical foundations to this Pratchett Gaiman double header. A cult classic amongst fans of both authors capturing the unique tone of Good Omens was always going to prove crucial, alongside nailing those leading roles. Thankfully from the opening titles until closing credits this expositional opener possesses an inherently quirky confidence which almost swaggers on screen.
As both friends and adversaries who are charged with steering good and evil across centuries of watchful occupation, David Tennant and Michael Sheen are pitch perfect casting. More demonically rock n’ roll than cloven hoofed or fire breathing Tennant is accidentally inept, off kilter cool and more concerned with feathering his nest than carrying out orders. Sheen meanwhile is equally in denial enthralled by classical music, vintage wines and human history. Institutionalised and rather enjoying themselves their metaphorical utopia is now under threat giving Good Omens its essential narrative conceit.
Between the theological discussions, moral quandaries and religious taboos being dissected Crowley and Aziraphale come across like middle management gate keepers. Tennant and Sheen as demon and angel respectively are not past bending the truth, bamboozling bosses or taking credit for world changing events. Call it the celestial equivalent of padding out your CV with added Nazi overtones and unexpected inquisitions. To say there is more than a little Hitchhikers Guide to Good Omens would be airing on the side of subtlety. With a cast which includes Frances McDormand, John Hamm and Nick Offerman in less than conventional roles, In The Beginning feels fresh, vibrant yet somehow familiar.
On the one hand Gaiman as writer has managed to channel Pratchett whilst keeping his humour sensibly mainstream. There is a touch of farce combined with theological in-jokes which are peppered throughout, which neither distracts nor detracts from his world ending narrative. Sheen, Tennant, Hamm and company all seem to be having tremendous fun, while tonally Good Omens falls somewhere between Preacher and American Gods with added Anti-Christ. If this is an indication of things to come then we are definitely in safe hands.