Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens finally hits screens
- David Pollock
- 30 May 2019
TV adaptation of the apocalyptic fantasy-comedy has an all-star cast with Michael Sheen and David Tennant in lead roles
'I first read Good Omens as a teenager and it's been one of my favourite stories ever since,' said Michael Sheen at the official launch of the television adaptation of the fantasy novel by two of the genre's most famed creators. 'To be part of the team entrusted with bringing it alive on screen is a bit of a dream come true, to be honest.' Considering Terry Gilliam tried for many years to adapt it as a film – reportedly with Johnny Depp and Robin Williams in the lead roles – it's fair to call this series 'much-anticipated'.
Sheen's experience no doubt mirrors that of most people as they first discovered the 1990 fantasy novel; co-written by the late Terry Pratchett and his spiritual heir Neil Gaiman, Good Omens was perfect teen fantasy, conjured by two writers with one foot in the open-eyed wonder of childhood and another in the realism and black humour of encroaching adulthood. It's a story of the birth of the son of Satan and the oncoming end of the world, but don't worry – it's a comedy.
For many, it's enough of a selling point that this is an adaptation of a work by Pratchett (who died in 2015, and remains most well-known for both his Discworld series and his thoughtful, eloquent public persona) and Gaiman, the creator of DC / Vertigo's graphic novel series The Sandman and now an established fantasy author himself. Of the two, Gaiman's works are more familiar on the screen; film fantasies Stardust (2007), Coraline (2009) and the Nicole Kidman-starring How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2018) were all based on his stories.
Yet for the general public, Good Omens has to be watched simply for the breadth and quality of the cast. The leads are Sheen and David Tennant as Aziraphale and Crowley, an angel and a demon respectively, who enjoy their mortal lives on earth and don't wish to see the destruction of everything that the Anti-Christ will wreak, setting out instead to prevent his coming. Elsewhere, the slow drip of cast reveals has been a godsend (pun intended) for genre website clicks; Mad Men's John Hamm is the Archangel Gabriel; Miranda Richardson is the medium Madame Tracy; Brian Cox is the voice of Death; Frances McDormand is the voice of God and Benedict Cumberbatch the voice of Satan.
There are also roles for Jack Whitehall, Derek Jacobi, Parks & Recreation's Nick Offerman, Josie Lawrence, This is Spinal Tap!'s Michael McKean and The League of Gentlemen's Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and Mark Gatiss, while all six episodes are directed and co-executive produced by Scottish director Douglas Mackinnon, whose credits include a number of episodes of Doctor Who, as well as work on Sherlock and Outlander. 'Ironically, given that it's a timeless novel,' says Mackinnon, 'the Good Omens story stretches from the beginning … to quite near the end of time.'
Gaiman himself is writer and showrunner of the series. 'If you are looking for actors to play two of the best-loved characters you and Terry Pratchett ever created, then, if you are very lucky and have been very good, you will get Michael Sheen and David Tennant to bring them to life,' he said of the project when it was announced. 'The best Welsh actor of his generation gets to be an angel, the best Scottish actor of his, a demon. Terry and I wrote Good Omens – I like to think it's one of the funniest novels ever written about the end of the world and how we're all going to die – almost 30 years ago. It's strange that it feels more relevant now than it ever did before. I only wish that Terry could be here to see it come to life with such a fantastic team.'
Good Omens launches on Amazon Prime on Fri 31 May. Catch an exclusive screening of all six episodes on the big screen at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Sat 29 Jun.