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Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy

Good shows


Having finished the latest seasons of Glow and Mindhunter on Netflix, and the six episodes of Chernobyl on HBO (those are all recommended series, by the way, as is the new Stumptown), Jean and I needed a new show to stream. I short-listed four:

  1. Killing Eve
  2. The Expanse
  3. Good Omens
  4. When They See Us

Jean declared interest in all but the last (about the Central Park Five), which he thought he’d find too depressing.

We decided to start with the six-episode Good Omens, from Amazon Prime.

The premise here is that history as told in the Bible is actually true, and all that dinosaur evidence to the contrary is just God’s idea of a joke. Also, the apocalypse is nearing. An angel (Aziraphale) and a demon (Crowley), who have both been on Earth for quite some time, and have grown rather fond of the place, secretly team up to try and thwart it.

Four episodes in, we’re quite enjoying it. It’s quirky and funny. The cast, led by Michael Sheen and David Tennant–but also featuring John Hamm, Michael McKean, and the voice of Frances Macdormand–is terrific. The episodes don’t waste any time in speeding along toward the end of days. As an added bonus, it also happens to feature a great deal of Queen music.

Good Omens trailer

If there’s anything the show reminds of me of, that would be my favourite network show, NBC’s The Good Place.

Currently in season four, with past seasons available on Netflix, The Good Place is a half-hour comedy starring Kristen Bell and Ted Dansen. It begins when Eleanor Shellstrop dies and finds herself in “the good place” (as opposed to “the bad place”). Only, given the wonderfully charitable lives the other inhabits of “the good place” have led, Eleanor fears that she has mistakenly been assigned there. And has to figure out how to avoid being found out and sent to the bad place.

Good Place season 1 trailer

But that’s just the initial setup. This series goes places in its four seasons, with twists you don’t see coming, unexpected alliances, and utterly bold time jumps and compression. The series is really better watched unspoiled, so I don’t want to give much away. But it does share with Good Omens the off-kilter look at religious themes, the representation of the forces of good and evil as largely banal bureaucracies, and a cartoon-like comedy approach to dealing with deep subjects. Like the best of fantasy series (hi, Buffy) both use the fantastical to comment on modern human realities.

Still, you can’t push it too far. Good Omens is a six-part series of one-hour episodes, based on a beloved (albeit not read by me) Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett novel. It’s largely about poking fun at the absurdity of literal religious beliefs. (I think. I mean, I still have two episodes to go.)

(But, one of my favourite parts of Good Omens so far is the look back at the time of Noah’s Ark.

[The following are not exact quotes, but…] “What’s going on, then?” asks Crowley. “God’s feeling tetchy. She’s decided to drown everyone. Big storm,” replies Aziraphale. “What? Everyone? Even the children?” The angel nods, mutely. Then adds, “Well, just the locals. I don’t think she’s mad at the Chinese. Or the Native Americans…”)

Whereas The Good Place is a completely original, four-season (all short seasons) sitcom. It does not take on traditional religion and its beliefs, but really digs into morality and philosophy: can people change? What does it mean to be good? It’s stunning that there is a half-hour American sitcom about that, isn’t it? (And yes, it’s hilarious!)

So, in summary, Good Omens and The Good Place are both good shows that are somewhat similar but also not really, except that both are deserving of your time and attention.

2 thoughts on “Good shows

  1. Good Omens is the only Pratchett novel I’ve read, and I think I liked it (don’t remember much — it was eons ago). So I started watching the series but… I think I watched two episodes but I’ve not had any desire to finish it. It’s OK — but there is just so much else that I want to watch that I enjoy more. Same with The Good Place. I’ll finish up the season, but I don’t get why everyone says it’s so good. It’s OK, not amazing. The Expanse is the best of the shows on your shortlist. Can’t wait for season 4 starting in December. But luckily there’s season 3 of The Crown dropping on Sunday and the final season of The Man in the High Castle that dropped today. You know what is the best new show I’ve seen though? For All Mankind. It’s from Apple TV (no, I’m not subscribing to it — I use other means). An alternative history of the space race from Ron D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica, Outlander, Deep Space Nine, etc.). So, so, so good. Maybe the best thing on TV this year.

  2. So you haven’t even seen the Noah’s Ark part of “Good Omens”! And haven’t experienced the “I’m in Love with my Car” sequence! … Though you likely have to be a Queen aficionado to really appreciate that

    I clearly have a weakness for quirky shows with comedic takes on serious moral subjects. I mean, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is my favorite show of all time.

    And “The Good Place”–it’s so carefully written and plotted compared to most sitcoms. So original (even though I’ve here compared it to Good Omens). A five-second joke that shows up as an important plot point six episodes later. Huge changes in direction, sometimes in a single episode (like the 800 reboots one). I think it deserves all the praise it gets.

    Another “Good”-titled show that I’m not really understanding all the praise for is “The Good Wife”. I’m just a few episodes into season 1, and it just seems like a standard procedural to me. And Alicia can do no wrong. Probably it gets more complex in later seasons, given how hooked people got on it? I’m still watching it periodically, though, because sometimes I feel like watching a simple procedural, the “case of the week” where things generally work out in the end. But Jean can’t be bothered with it.

    There is definitely too much to watch. It’s completely impossible to keep up with all the worthy shows out there. We’ll probably watch the first season of “Killing Eve” next, while we still have Crave / HBO on our free trial, then move on to “The Expanse”. “For All Mankind” will have to show up on something other than Apple or torrents for me to catch that one…

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