I almost never find myself agreeing with anyone when they say that the film’s better than the book. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did; until I watched Good Omens. Written by Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett, Good Omens is perhaps the only book I thoroughly enjoyed, while also agreeing that the one-season television series was so much better.
The novel follows the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley in their attempt to find and stop the son of Satan from bringing about the apocalypse, and is masterfully put together, despite certain occasions when the difference between Gaiman and Pratchett’s writing is obvious. The book can also be slow-moving at times, particularly the mid-section, and the transition from character to character can seem a bit sudden, with some transitions seemingly taking place mid-sentence, or mid-realisation. The book, being written in the 90’s, is definitely a 90’s book, and for modern audiences reading Good Omens, it is so very evident.
The television show was produced by Gaiman himself, and updates the book slightly, while still remaining accurate to the text, with a few extra scenes added so it’s not just a carbon copy. The series adds a lot more in terms of scenes between Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and Crowley (David Tennant), especially the 30 minute cold open in episode 3, which now holds the record for the longest cold open in television history. Unlike the book, the television series also explores the world of the story in more detail, such as giving an explanation as to what the angels are, which in this case are “a man, or at least a man-shaped being,” meaning that although the beings may appear to pass as a particular gender, they are in fact genderless. As a result, the television series allows for further world-building, thus developing on the source material.
The series allows for the cast to explore gender and sexuality in more depth, by way of the added screen-time between Tennant and Sheen. Sheen himself has stated that Aziraphale is in love with Crowley, and admits he has read fanfiction of the book to appear more like what readers imagined he would. When both characters are present in the scenes, the story moves quicker, the series becomes more interesting, and the love story between the pair is more obvious and blatant.
Gaiman has stated that when Pratchett passed, he promised him one thing: to make something Pratchett would be proud of, and with the amazing reception from fans to Good Omens, it seems likely that Pratchett would indeed be proud.