There’s only one way to make it in Hollywood: take off your clothes. So, Kiwi boytoy Emmett Skilton goes the Full Monty on his first trip to tinsel town, when The Almighty Johnsons airs tonight on Sy-Fy. Ok, that might be a bit over the top. (But he does…)
We’re taking a little time off from movies, to bring you news of a television show premiering tonight that’s truly worth watching. There’s more than just Hobbits on the bottom of planet earth. There’s New Zealand’s The Almighty Johnsons.
Uninhibited actor Emmett Skilton plays Axl Johnson, the youngest of four working class-ish brothers living in Auckland (Auckland is the only city I know in New Zealand, so I’m assuming that’s it), who are somewhat blessed by a gift: they host the mortal embodiment of Norse gods – at least after they turn 21. This is where Emmett needs to get his kit off. After all, having a Norse god (we don’t know who he’ll get, but does that matter?) descend to Earth and possess your body has a fairly explosive effect, so you might as well strip down before hand. Apparently, based on this show, New Zealanders don’t suffer from the chronic obesity epidemic that plagues we Americans.
While it’d be hard to name even one other TV show from the land down under the land down under, TAJ was created by very prolific writers James Griffin and Rachel Lang who clearly have a great gift for jaunty dialog and crafting laugh out loud funny dilemmas for their characters to get in to. You’d think being a god would be all kinds of awesome, but not so for these four. Especially because of the goddesses…
The Almighty Johnsons plays like the old American show Charmed, with a slight role reversal. Here, the males are the dominant characters (at least in their own minds), and the females take a back seat – at least for a while. Another difference here is that the female gods are just as inept, just as clever, just as misguided, and just as committed to doing the right thing – whatever that is – as the guys are. The only thing that might seem odd is how New Zealanders only seem to be able to pronounce one vowel. (10 points if you can geese which one!) But even that’s adorable.
It’s difficult to pick the best characters, or actors, or best storyline, but Jared Turner’s character Ty gets my vote as the most tragic. The god of cold and darkness, Hod, inhabits him, leaving him bereft of human contact lest he accidentally freeze them to death. Rachel Nash is also particularly fun as the hippy-dippy fortune teller slash recovering drug addict Ingrid, who also happens to be Snotra, the goddess of wisdom. You might also recognize Dean O’Gorman who plays brother Anders Johnson, as Fili, the dwarf with a bit too much affinity for sharp objects in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films. And whatever you do, don’t piss off Thor.
This doesn’t diminish the work of the other actors in this huge ensemble cast. Everyone is fantastically amusing, and the trouble they get into, and their laughable attempts to get out of it should have any viewer hooked straight off. Despite a limited budget and rarity of special effects, the story compels as the talented actors draw us in. But when the budget does allow for a few effects, boy do they pay off. Don’t piss off a an angry ice god, that’s all I can say.
The Almighty Johnsons ran for three seasons in New Zealand, where apparently government subsidies support a lot of the programs they make. With a small but fiercely loyal fan-base, TAJ couldn’t sustain funding for a fourth season. No matter, the three we have are worth every second, ending with a fitting send-off and allowing a return in future, should the gods ever find the opportunity to visit Earth again.
For now, the only question is Sy-Fy. Ever hear of Firefly? Need I say more? The network has planted the show on Friday nights at 10PM (that’s tonight folks!) Friday’s can be a risky night, but it could be worse. The 10PM time slot is essential, as our watershed rules would mean somebody could get upset at the very adult themes the show continually addresses. (There’s a lot of sex, and a lot of drinking, etc.) It’s all in good fun, though the characters involved take everything in earnest.
Let’s hope Sy-Fy has learned from past mistakes, and doesn’t try swapping around the episode order, or hopping weeknights for the heck of it, or skipping weeks and leaving viewers wondering where to find it.
The first episode starts slow, and seems sophomoric, but give it time – they’re playing a long game, and these guys (and gals) will grow on you. Check out the trailer below. Then, give it two episodes. I promise, you’ll be hooked.
The Almighty Johnsons premieres tonight at 10PM on the Sy-Fy channel. You can keep up with America’s reaction at their official Twitter feed here. @almightyjohnsnz
Copyright South Pacific Picutres