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Audrey Kupferberg: Good Omens

In 1990, a highly creative novel by British authors Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman was published.  The title is Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch.  On May 31, Amazon Prime began streaming a new six-part mini-series based on this book and with a short version of its title – Good Omens.  BBC Studios and Amazon Studios produced the series along with Narrativia and Gaiman’s company, The Blank Corporation.  Unfortunately, Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease and died in 2015 before this project began, but Gaiman wrote the episodes in addition to producing.

With a timespan covering just about the whole of eternity to-date, the plot focuses on the modern tale of an infant anti-Christ whose family placement is arranged in hell and bungled by a group of Satanic nuns.  The saga continues with the eventual rise to power of the anti-Christ as an eleven-year-old boy to fulfill his unique life’s purpose to create Armageddon and cause the Angels of heaven and Demons of hell to bring about the end of the world. 

Meanwhile, there is an intriguing sub-plot of a young woman who is descended from a 17th Century witch named Agnes Nutter who wrote many accurate prophesies and then was burned at the stake.  This end of the story even has a romantic angle to it!

While the themes of Good Omens sound as serious as serious gets, the tone of the mini-series actually is witty and even comical. Audiences will include sci-fi fans, Comic-Con attendees, and casual viewers who enjoy a well-told, colorful and creative yarn.

Michael Sheen and David Tennant star as the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley.  They have known each other for 6,000 years. They share meals, chat on park benches, make all sorts of plans as a pair, and even save each other’s skin on occasion.  Of course, an angel and a demon should not be friendly, much less supportive of each other; however, these guys are gracious and rebellious to a point at which they defy the rules of their respective bosses, Beelzebub and Gabriel.  And, yes, that means trouble for each of these wayward spirits!

The cast is a director’s dream.  In addition to the leads, Frances McDormand, Miranda Richardson, Jack Whitehall, Jon Hamm, Anna Maxwell Martin, Brian Cox, Bill Paterson, Nick Offerman, Nina Sosanya, and Derek Jacobi take part.  In one episode, Benedict Cumberbatch plays Satan.  All the actors seem to be having a grand old time as they convey this fast-paced, odd-ball, peripatetic tale of an fated Apocalyse that may or may not strike down humanity. 

The production values are terrific. The special effects are convincing. The scripts are endlessly engaging, even when the storylines take viewers on lengthy twists and turns that lead nowhere in particular.  The acting is first rate.  Good Omens has rated highly with audiences, and there may be a sequel – which is unusual for any tale that ends in attempted Armageddon, even if that Armageddon is severely mismanaged! 

Audrey Kupferberg is a film and video archivist and appraiser. She is lecturer emeritus and the former director of Film Studies at the University at Albany and co-authored several entertainment biographies with her husband and creative partner, Rob Edelman.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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