Michael Sheen and David Tennant as the stars of Good Omens (image: Amazon)

I recently watched the Amazon Prime show Good Omens and then went back and re-read my ancient paperback copy from about 1991. I’ve missed Terry Pratchett, but I’ve been fortunate enough to see Neil Gaiman a couple of times recently, and I’ve got some of his books signed. Although Neil would probably be the first to remark than perhaps the unsigned ones are rarer…

Good Omens on TV

As a long time fan of a book, I’ve read Good Omens several times, I always worry about film and TV adaptions. However I had no worries about this one as Neil Gaiman was directly involved as a producer. I had a lot of confidence because it isn’t his first opera. American Gods has been spectacularly faithful to the book, and Neil has previously been involved with other projects turning his work into film.

Good Omens lived up to expectations. It was wonderful to see the characters come to life, and the casting was superb. None of them were anything short of excellent. The story was just how I remembered it, and it played out beautifully on screen. Some of the bits from the book weren’t explained, it’s hard to do footnotes in film. However they were all there, including the Queen soundtrack for Crowley’s car.

Bang up to date

One thing that quite surprised me was how well the storyline held up. Good Omens was first published in 1990, written a year or so earlier. Good Omens the TV series was set in the here and now. There was remarkably little adaption required.

It’s astonishing that almost thirty years on from when Good Omens was written that the story involved the internet. Most of us hadn’t heard of it then, much less thought of how omnipresent it would become.

Book Vs Screen

I re-read Good Omens after I’d watched it. I did the same with American Gods. It’s always interesting to compare choices made with the adaption.

There are some fairly minor differences in the screen version. The biggest one I noticed was the US diplomat that was supposed to host the antichrist. In the book he’s pretty minor for this scene, but in the screen version he’s in a meeting with the President. This seems much better, it justifies his protection detail and also why He’ll would choose him.

All the other changes I noticed on the re-read were elements of detail. There are many references to bits of pop culture, most of them oblique and easily missed. There are also several footnotes, classic Terry Pratchett, which don’t translate well to screen. I liked this, because there’s still a richer experience in reading the book.


Good Omens is awesome in both book form and on the screen. Do both. Watch it first, and then read the book to suck the marrow out of it.