Good Omens (Amazon Prime)
Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman had a long-standing agreement that any adaptation of Good Omens – their much-loved 1990 comic fantasy novel about the End of Days – should be undertaken together. But shortly before his death in 2015, Pratchett asked Gaiman to go ahead without him. ‘He asked me to do it, and then died,’ said Gaiman. ‘Then it became a last request.’
Bringing such a sprawling, imaginative, idiosyncratic book to the screen was always going to be a challenge. But Gaiman and director Douglas Mackinnon have succeeded in capturing its epic scale – this is a story that takes us from the Garden of Eden to the present day, via Noah’s Ark, the Crucifixion, Shakespeare’s Globe and Nazi Germany – without losing its peculiarly English sense of whimsy. (Lines like ‘Due to an unfortunate mix-up in a hospital, the Antichrist had been mislaid’ are more Monty Python than Game of Thrones.)
At heart, it’s about the eternal struggle between Heaven and Hell, as represented by Aziraphale, a rather finickity angel played by Michael Sheen, and the satanic demon Crowley (David Tennant). Except, over the millennia, they’ve kind of become best BFFs; Crowley, in particular, has grown rather fond of his life as the earth’s lord of misrule, so teams up with his old frenemy to stop the spawn of Satan bringing about the Apocalypse, which he fears might cramp his style.
The incredible cast finds room for everyone from Frances McDormand and Benedict Cumberbatch as God and the Devil to Jon Hamm as the Archangel Gabriel, Jack Whitehall as a slightly hapless witchfinder and Daniel Mays as the unwitting father of the Dark Lord. Tennant plays Crowley as a sort of louche, lounge lizard rock star, while Sheen gets to show his comic chops as the dapper celestial fusspot.
Not everyone will buy into Pratchett and Gaiman’s offbeat world – one in which a 17thcentury witch predicts the failure of Betamax, and the fate of the universe rests on the name of a dog. But surrender to its quirky charm, and you’ll find that Armageddon is much more fun than it’s normally cracked up to be.
The Planets (BBC2)
For all Philomena Cunk’s mockery, Professor Brian Cox’s poetic wonder at the universe remains as infectious as ever in this new guide to the worlds of our solar system. This week, it was a tale of two sisters, tracing the see-sawing fortunes of Earth and Mars (did you know the Red Planet was once bluer than ours?). With stunning CG sequences, it’s a thrilling science fact blockbuster, and a sobering reminder what an unlikely gift this thing called life really is.
7 Up & Me (ITV)
This curtain-raiser to the latest instalment of ITV’s long-running ‘Up’ series saw ‘famous fans’ discussing their favourite moments, while reflecting on the same milestones in their own lives. True to the founding philosophy of the show, which has traced the fortunes of everyone from prep school pupils to ‘Bernardo’s boys’, the interviewees crossed the social divide, from Richard E Grant to Micky Flanagan. For what was essentially an extended trailer, it proved surprisingly moving.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, June 6, 2019
(c) Waitrose Weekend