Adaptations have come to define media in all facets, from genres of movies
adapted from singular books to texts being directly adapted into movies.
Adaptations are popular for good reason. Audiences can feel a sense of security and familiarity with characters and plots they recognize, while producers are safe in knowing fans of the source material will attend the film, minimizing risk.
It is rarer to see adaptations in television, particularly that shown on streaming services, as a book is riskier to adapt into an indefinitely long series. However, Amazon Video’s adaptation of 1990 novel Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman, and the now late Sir Terry Pratchett was a risk paid off.
Good Omens, released May 31, 2019, is not only an adaptation of a novel, but an adaptation of everyday life into an extraordinary story. Narrated by God (voiced by Frances McDormand), Good Omens tells a modern story of disdain towards the corporations pulling unseen strings through a pair of unlikely coworkers and even unlikelier friends: an angel (Michael Sheen) and a demon (David Tennant) attempting to avert the apocalypse without being reprimanded by corporate.
Through a mix of wit, comedy, and touching themes regarding humanity, free will, and love, Good Omens is without a dry moment. More importantly, however, these factors leave a show that is beyond all else, smart.
The most common complaint regarding the series was manifested in a petition signed by several thousand calling for the show to be taken off of Netflix for its “blasphemous” nature. In a twist of irony, or if one were to believe Gaiman’s series, fate, the petition did next to nothing in hurting Good Omens, which is only available on Amazon Video.
Wrong streaming services aside, Good Omens was never meant to be taken literally, and to do so is a direct misunderstanding of the show’s core messages and themes. Like Shakespeare’s adaptations of history, at times wildly inaccurate, the point is not the work’s educational value regarding its inspiration (the Bible, in Good Omens’s case). The point is to use a commonly understood subject to discuss a greater theme.
It would take a leap of logic to assume viewers would be swayed to a sect of Christianity that believed Heaven and Hell both function like office buildings where miracles require paperwork. However, Gaiman, as a writer behind the show, is given the capability to comment on earthly capitalism and seemingly all-powerful humans pulling unseen strings.
Beyond all else, Good Omens finds its strength in its ending. It curbs the high tragedy and poorly written twists of many other shows on streaming networks and cable alike, despite retaining similar stakes and tension.
Good Omens remains both humorous and hopeful from beginning to end, something particularly refreshing in an era of media dominated by misery and turmoil.