Film and TV

AMC’s Preacher demonstrates there’s trouble in Annville

by on 10/07/2016
 

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Stuck in development hell for years Preacher is the kind of thing that I could never see actually making onto the screen big or small, it was just too batshit crazy and too unapologetically gleefully offensive. When news emerged that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were working on bringing Preacher to the small screen I honestly thought it would just die before actually becoming a reality just like the various other attempts.

Somewhat surprisingly though Preacher made it to the screen via AMC, only it’s been rather underwhelming so far.

Preacher is past the halfway point in its first season and it’s safe to say there’s some problems in Annvile. This show doesn’t seem to really know what story it’s telling, and it’s also doing it very slowly. For what I assume are budgetary reasons, the whole first season is set in Annville, the backwater Texan town where Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) is the resident preacher. Which shouldn’t neccessarily be a bad thing if there’s good writing and interesting characters populating Annville, only there isn’t and there aren’t and that’s two of the shows major problems.

The first episode introduced hard drinking Irish vampire Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) and Jesse’s feisty ,intelligent and fiercely independent ex Tulip (Ruth Negga) in impressively chaotic style but gave Dominic Cooper’s Jesse little to do besides mope around and deal with his parishioners. Jesse is stuck listening to the mindnumbing minutiae of their lives, and do a little verbal jousting with the local Sheriff Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown).  By the first episode’s end the most interesting characters by far were Cassidy and Tulip and this is something which carried through for most of the following episodes.

Six episodes in and Jesse is still the least interesting character of the core trio, which is problematic since he’s the main character who I find myself not really caring about at all, I’m far more interested in Cassidy and Tulip.

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There’s nothing wrong with telling a story slowly, plot isn’t that interesting without character development, the problem here is there’s not much in the way of character development either. Annville is not an interesting place and the characters besides Cassidy, Tulip and Jesse really aren’t that interesting either. Sub-plots involving Jesse’s church helper Emily (Lucy Griffith), the mayor of Annville (Ricky Mabe), unhinged local business magnate Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley) and Donnie (Derek Wilson) one of Quincannon’s muscle seem a bit like ponderous filler, something in the way of the story rather than part of it. The only characters outside the core trio who are interesting are Eugene (Ian Colleti) the sheriff’s ostracised mutilated son and The Cowboy (Graham McTavish) who appears in prologues set in the Old West.

Speaking of The Cowboy this must be the most bewildering display of the shows haphazard approach to writing for anyone who isn’t familiar with the comic, as they will have absolutely no idea why the show is featuring prologues set in the Old West that have zero connection to the on-going story. You could easily think you’re watching a different show entirely. Conversely though people who are familiar with that story will likely find these are amongst the best scenes the show has to offer because they know where they are (theoretically) leading up to.

Graham McTavish as The Cowboy, Trine Christensen as The Cowboy Wife - Preacher Saint of Killers _ Season 1, Episode 101 - Photo Credit: Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

Watching Preacher it’s hard to grasp what story it’s trying to tell. The comic can be summed up with “Smalltown preacher gets bizarre new power and goes on roadtrip with his friends to find God” but the show isn’t that story. As for the elephant in the room, not telling the exact same story isn’t necessarily bad if it’s a story that’s well done. There’s a lot stuff going on here, stuff that seems to try and establish why Jesse doesn’t want to leave Annville despite apparently having good reasons to and Tulip’s attempts to convince him and it’s all stuff that makes the show seem like it’s stuck in second gear. None of it seems convincing on a character level. Another problem is Tulip is being poorly served by writers who have no idea what to do with the character after such a good introduction, featuring in a love triangle which makes no real sense from a character perspective and being reduced to a “stay away from my boyfriend” subplot that equally makes little sense, both these developments undermine her introduction as being intelligent, capable and fiercely independent.

Cassidy and later Jesse’s altercations with Fiore (Tom Brooke) and Dublanc (Antol Yusef), two mysterious figures charged with getting back what Jesse is now host to, are glimpses into the story at the heart of Preacher but the show seems to have developed a predictable habit of having one or two interestingly unhinged blackly comical scenes per episode whilst the rest is just ponderous unengaging exploration of smalltown life and anything resembling actually hitting the gas quickly gets choked out.

Preacher isn’t an awful show but it’s not great either, it’s “okay” and in an age where there are numerous shows all competing for a chunk of time any show’s creators should be aiming for better than “okay”.

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