Here’s the thing.
I like Neil Gaiman. He writes some awesome stories. The shelves in my flat are full of statuettes and busts of characters from Sandman and ‘The Graveyard Book’ is one of only three books to make me actually cry.
But apart from Sandman which is, I suppose, a series of short, themed stories, I really don’t think he can write an extended narrative. I tried reading “American Gods” three times. I got bored and on the last attempt, I got two thirds through it and gave up in exasperation.
Dear God it was dull!
I was still in full on Gaiman Fan Boy mode at the time and the third attempt to read it was so long after the first that ‘Anansi Boys’ had come out and was waiting to be read after the glorious day I finished American Gods.
It’s still on the shelf. Unread. Unloved.
So why am I bothering with the TV show at all?
Curiosity, mostly as even though I found the book tiresome, I recognised that at its heart was a great idea and a potentially great story. But mostly curiosity – with an eye on an ‘if it’s done well, we might get a Sandman TV show’ type of thing.
Episode one was a bit of a mixed bag.
The opening section with the Vikings really didn’t do it for me, I’m afraid. *That* shot with the arrows that everyone was whooping about seemed little more than ghoulishness and failed to impress. Can’t deny that they got him, though. The rest of the section did nothing and I’m not really sure it had much in the way of relevance. As scene setting, it was entirely unnecessary. The CGI bloodfest was badly executed and looked dreadful which actually managed to negate a lot of the humour in the sequence.
Onward to Shadow Moon. I didn’t envisage him being so buff, frankly. Strong, but not quite so wide. Seemed a bit…obvious, but the character? Well, I reckon Ricky Whittle nailed it. A great, studied and measured performance second only to Ian McShane. McShane seems to be channelling both Steptoe and Columbo and doing it with great verve.
I think the thing that pissed me off most about the first episode was the relentless need to be liked or edgy or a bit weird. It didn’t feel like it was comfortable in its own skin. So much was there to please the fan boys – not necessarily Gaiman fanboys as that Viking bit screamed of Game of Thrones fan wank – that it became fantasy TV’s greatest hits and really needs to shake this off if it’s going to survive with any kind of integrity. Oh and tits. It’s de rigeur to have tits in programmes now.
While I knew that the Bilquis sequence was coming and saw no way in which it could be done without tits and other nudity, the actual, um… disappearance looked pretty shoddy. So. Neither set piece has really got my flapping with excitement, but that’s okay because the quieter and less (overtly) supernaturally inclined sections were a lot better. Moon in Prison with Low Key Lyesmyth (really?) was fun enough and his propensity to change the outcomes of stories indicates much. The initial conversations with Mr Wednesday had a great deal of charm and the sequences with Mad Sweeney were an absolute joy.
But the best line in the first episode?
“I’m trying to regain my dignity here”
But I can’t help but feel it’s trying a bit too hard. Some of it was wearing to watch and at times you just wanted to scream ‘GET ON WITH IT’.
The new god was as irritating as he was probably meant to be and his minions just the right shade of odd…but the sequence was unconvincing. What I took from the books was that the Gods, old and new, just lived their lives, did what they did and did them pretty much in human terms. All the flash wireframe stuff, the car stretching and visual fireworks seemed a bit ‘so what’?
I suppose the good thing is that there was enough good stuff in the quieter moments to get me back for another episode, but I really hope they calm down with the whizz-bang fan-boy shit.