Our rating: 4 out of 5
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
I had never heard of Terry Pratchett until recently and then cracked open a copy of Going Postal. I found myself incapable of putting the book down, and read late into the night, all the while laughing until my sides hurt. This small screen adaptation is the latest attempt to cash in on the popular British author's success and proves a delightful story of odd eccentricities and deranged characters. Anyone who loves oddball comedy mixed with alternate universes and a touch of fantasy will absolutely love it.
Time moves fast when you are approaching your own execution. But for Moist Von Lipwig (Richard Coyle), there is a fragment of hope in escaping the noose -- it comes in the form of a small silver spoon discovered in a bygone corner of his prison cell. Tucking the stone dust away in his mattress and spending many diligent hours at hard toil chipping his way through the exterior wall, he is thwarted when making a bid for freedom only earns him a brand new spoon -- inspiration for future occupants of the small cell. (You see, the constables are interested in keeping his spirits high with the hope of freedom, not the promise of it.) Things only get worse when his jolly hangman asks him to sign the noose (a side business that earns much revenue from collectors) and Moist bids farewell to life as he knows it. But rather than awakening in the great beyond, he comes around in a posh office, somewhat worse for wear but ready to listen to Lord Vetinari (Charles Dance), who has a proposition for him: he can either do something productive with his life in making the local Post Office a success, or he can set foot through the door that leads to... well, immediate and sudden and possibly violent death. Given that Moist has already faced death once today, he decides that managing the Post Office is a viable option. Of course, he has no intention of keeping his bargain -- but doesn't realize Vetinari also has no interest in allowing him to escape. Instead, a giant clay creature known as a Golom is instructed to keep a watchful eye on him. And that he does, sometimes with a good smack to the jaw.
Life as the new postmaster is far from fun. The place is run down and overrun with billions of envelopes that constitute undelivered mail. There may even be a few ghosts about the place -- and the hired help is not all that inspiring. One of them is ninety if he's a day and the other is obsessed with collecting pins. Yes, pins, of the sort you use to sew things with. Moist loathes his new position and is busy scheming on how to get out of it, but in the meantime is more than a tad preoccupied by the formidable Adora Dearheart (Claire Foy), a local businesswoman who nearly impales him with an arrow the first time he steps through her door. And then there is the fact that none of the previous post masters have lived beyond a month on the job, that everyone keeps telling him how sorry they are that he has taken this new position, and Reacher Gilt (David Suchet), the owner of the clacks -- the local telegraph office -- just may have dark things in mind for him in the weeks to come. Then there's the werewolf. And the vampire. And the nightmares. And the fact that if he doesn't succeed, the noose is waiting for its second chance!
"Quirky" would be a terrific word for this two-part miniseries full of creative odds and ends and hilarious dialogue. It is not quite as ingenious as the book (as some fans would attest) but holds its own and requires nothing more from its audience than an open mind and vivid imagination. There are aspects of the great novelists involved in various inspired ways -- not the least of which being a host of peculiar and intensely likable (or in some cases, sinister) characters. While the story builds (introducing us to murder, assassination attempts, daring races, and that most wonderful invention of all -- stamps!), we fall in love with the protagonist and his terrible situation, but not enough to avoid laughing at him, which we do frequently. The casting on this is great, ranging from the ever-intimidating Charles Dance to the fierce Claire Foy in a role as far from the meek "Little Dorrit" as you will ever find. It's clear that a great amount of money was spent on this production and it shows in gorgeous costumes with a bit of a fantasy twist. The script is tight, funny, and memorable in all the right ways. The author even has a momentary cameo among the slew of retired post office employees. It relies little on visual gags as well as wit and banter, and the chemistry between Moist and Adora is some of the best I have seen.
There is not much to concern most parents but quite a bit of morbid humor in some form -- a man being hanged (twice!), waking up in a coffin, and so forth. Occasional innuendo intrudes on the dialogue. There are a handful of scattered profanities (that include the term "bugger"). Most of the violence is implied but one scene in particular is rather jarring -- we hear a man being beaten to death behind a door, then dragged out in a large sack. Other implications of murder abound, as well as vivid descriptions of what happened to previous postmasters ("his head was cracked open like..."). A vampire-like creature attempts to kill Moist and is impaled through the chest, then set on fire. Adora smokes frequently. Magic is present in the form of a local wizard who rigs up a looking glass to witness the end of a race. There are a handful of references to various gods -- Moist offers a sacrifice of sausages to a god through a local priest (the entire situation is played for laughs). He encounters ghostly voices in the post office that imply the letters stored there may have souls, as well as witnesses ghostly playback of his crimes. He also pretends to be possessed by a higher power in order to fool locals into believing he has been divinely inspired (this is later revealed to be a trick).
For the moment, this series is only available online or abroad but one can hope considering it didn't take too long for the previous adaptations to make their way across the pond that soon this one will also. Look forward to it with expectation -- it's a whole lot of fun.