Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Tube Talk: From the mind of Neil Gaiman

By Paula Hendrickson

Fantasy, horror, and sci-fi fans love Neil Gaiman. Why? Because Gaiman is one of the most creative and prolific storytellers around, working in multiple formats – graphic novels, traditional novels, films and television. (Gaiman has even written a couple episodes of Doctor Who.)

If you’re not already familiar with Gaiman’s prodigious output, you soon will be. Starz’s series, American Gods – which returns for a second season March 10 – is based on his award-winning novel of the same name, and Gaiman is also one of the show’s writers. And later this year, a mini-series based on Good Omens, written by Gaiman, based on a novel he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett, will premiere on Amazon Prime Video. Gaiman serves as an executive producer on both shows.

Both works delve into the concepts of good and evil, and the often tenuous line between the two.

American Gods is a bit trippy and unspools slowly, but is essentially about a power struggle between the old guard and new. In this case, older and sometimes long-forgotten deities asserting themselves against a new crop of lower-case gods of things like technology and new media. It can be brutal, thought-provoking, and even funny at times.

Ian McShane (Deadwood, Lovejoy) stars as Mr. Wednesday, a mischievous older god who knows war is coming. In season one he recruited a human ex-con with nothing to lose, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle, The 100), to help him recruit ancient and sometimes obscure gods to join the fight.

The series also showcases the talents of some of today’s best character actors. Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) may have the juiciest role of all, as her Media god turns up as different cultural icons including Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, and David Bowie in the first season alone. Pablo Schreiber (Orange is the New Black) makes living leprechaun Mad Sweeney a scene stealer every time he’s on screen. Crispin Glover (Back to the Future) is as creepy as you’d expect as Mr. World. And this season I’m excited to see Sakina Jaffrey (Timeless) take on the role of Mama-ji.

An equally impressive cast is just one of the many reasons Gaiman’s fans are excited to see Good Omens. David Tennant (Doctor Who, Broadchurch) and Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex) co-star, respectively, as demon Crowley and angel Aziraphale. The two have long co-existed on earth – and have even come to enjoy earth and its inhabitants – but are forced to team up to prevent Armageddon. John Hamm (Mad Men) plays the Archangel Gabriel, Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) plays Satan, and Frances McDormand plays God.

While American Gods is a dark fantasy drama with comedic elements, Good Omens is a dark fantasy comedy with one of the unlikeliest buddy stories you can imagine. Unless, of course, you’ve also seen or read American Gods. R.

Programming Notes:
American Gods season 2 premiere is Sunday, March 10 at 7 p.m. CT on Starz.
Good Omens releases Friday, May 31 on Amazon Prime Video.

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