The end of the world is nigh (it’s coming next Saturday), but it’ll be hilarious.
At least that’s how Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman saw it when they first published Good Omens, a tale about the apocalypse and the angel and demon who want to stop it. Twenty-nine years later, Good Omens is getting a six-part TV miniseries, written by Gaiman and directed by Sherlock and Doctor Who marvel Douglas Mackinnon.
Wait, Good Omens is actually getting made?
Yes! Long in discussion between Gaiman and Pratchett, an adaptation has been in (perhaps aptly) production purgatory for a long time. Since at least 2000, various names have been attached to it, including Terry Gilliam, Johnny Depp and Robin ($249 at Amazon.com) Williams.
When Pratchett died from Alzheimer’s disease in 2015, Gaiman said he wouldn’t do an adaptation without his good friend. But he changed his mind after receiving a posthumous letter from Pratchett that asked Gaiman to get it done without him and, well, here we are.
That’s great news, but … what is Good Omens?
Oh, of course. I forget not everybody has bought three editions of Good Omens in their lifetime.
Good Omens is about the coming apocalypse, written by fantasy visionaries and real-world friends Gaiman and Pratchett. It was first published in 1990. Gaiman conceived an idea about the Antichrist being accidentally swapped in a hospital at birth, wrote 5,000 words and then put it on the back burner as his Sandman graphic novel series kicked off.
He sent his Antichrist draft to Pratchett for feedback and a year later, Pratchett called him.
“That was the nearest I was ever going to get to Michaelangelo phoning to ask if I wanted to paint a ceiling with him,” Gaiman told the BBC in 2014.
And so, two of Earth’s most celebrated fantasy writers teamed to write a comedy about an unfortunate baby-swap and the coming apocalypse. It tells of an angel, Aziraphale, and a demon, Crowley, who have both found Earth a pretty suitable place to live. With the End Times drawing ever closer (the world is scheduled to end next Saturday, after dinner), Aziraphale and Crowley realise their pleasant Earthly lives are in danger. The Final Judgment is coming and Good or Evil is scheduled to prevail — unless they can prevent it.
With the end of the world comes an outrageous cast of characters, including the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Famine writes books about dieting); a witch who prophesied the end of the world back in the 17th century and her descendants; a convent of noisy nuns; the Antichrist and his group of childhood friends, and, of course, a soundtrack backed by the vocal stylings of Freddie Mercury and Queen.
It’s quite the end-of-the-world party.
Release date and first look
We know shooting was completed in March 2018 and post production is scheduled to be complete in October. Gaiman has hinted before that the series may drop in February, and that timeline seems relatively in line with the rest of the production schedule. I wouldn’t mark it down in your diary just yet, but there’s a good chance we’ll see it in February.
On July 20, Amazon Prime Video gave us our first look at the world of Good Omens in a short featurette.
It gives us but a taste of what’s to come and, what stands out is the cast’s love for the novel. There’s an obvious passion and excitement about bringing this world to life that can, we hope, only be a Good Omen of what’s to come. We also got a super short look at Comic-Con last month.
Meet the cast of angels and demons
David Tennant takes on the role of the demon Crowley, draped head to toe in black and always in a pair of sunglasses, no matter the weather. He’ll team up with Sheen, who plays the angel Aziraphale, a picture of perfect laundering in his dashing lights. Fans of the book have heaped praise on that inspired casting, and director Douglas Mackinnon told EW at Comic-Con 2018 that the chemistry between the duo is “a mix you can’t believe” likening them to “Butch and Sundance and Thelma and Louise all together.”
Josie Lawrence plays Agnes Nutter, the witch who foretold the end of the world, and Adria Arjona will play Anathema Device, Nutter’s last descendant. She’ll have a big role to play, come the apocalypse.
The forces of Hell find their fearless leader in Beelzebub, played by Anna Maxwell Martin, while on the other side of the afterlife fence we have Jon Hamm taking his rightful place as a charismatic, handsome angel named Gabriel. Gaiman himself calls Hamm “a thing of beauty, and a joy forever” in an early still from set.
He’s god damn right.
We also know Frances McDormand will play God, proving Ariana Grande’s theory correct, while Nick Offerman is the father of (not-)Antichrist, Warlock Dowling. The series will also feature Michael McKean and Miranda Richardson.
Gaiman’s work has gotten the book-to-film treatment before with Stardust and Coraline. He’s also been responsible for writing the English translation of Studio Ghibli masterpiece Princess Mononoke and highly lauded episodes of Doctor Who. Last year, his treasured mythology-based US road trip novel American Gods got its own TV adaptation and he worked closely with the showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green.
But Good Omens is different. Gaiman is serving as writer and, for the first time, as showrunner, and he’s trying to create something his dear friend Terry Pratchett would have enjoyed.
Scottish director Douglas Mackinnon, whose credits include Sherlock and Doctor Who, has directing duties on all six episodes and the show will be overseen by Narrativia, the production company headed by Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna Pratchett, and Gaiman’s The Blank Corporation working in conjunction with BBC and Amazon.
Gaiman has been vocal about the fact that he and Pratchett had long discussed ways to expand on the original story, even way back in 1991. The two had often talked about a sequel and what they’d like in an adaptation — and it seems there will be plenty of additions for fans to enjoy. The content never made it into a sequel, but it’s still been kicking about in Gaiman’s head.
Some aspects of the novel will be left out, though we aren’t sure what exactly that means yet. However, we already know some of the new content Gaiman is looking to deliver. For instance, the angel Gabriel, one of God’s messengers, is only mentioned in passing in the novel, but will play a larger role in the series.
The story itself works all the way back to creation itself (which is only 6000 years ago, of course), but it’s easy to forget the novel was written in the 1980s, a time where “Present Day” was all about putting cassettes in our cars and not spending every waking minute craning our necks at our phones. Some cosmetic changes will no doubt be necessary.
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