Hit or Sh**: AMC’s PREACHER
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
Enraptured in a zeitgeist of violence, Americans in ’95 were just as bloodthirsty as they are now. You couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing O.J. Simpson’s or Timothy McVeigh’s disturbing, blank expressions — and the nation was absolutely enthralled. Film and narrative TV attempted to cash in on this fascination, but as mom and dad enjoyed the latest gun-filled Schwarzenegger flick, the kids were more than likely passing around some sort of book that was ten times more controversial… and it wasn’t exactly pornography. Comics also followed suit with gory tales of death and destruction. DC were no strangers to adding an “EXTREME” label to their series’ titles, and Marvel’s horrifyingly bizarro Spider-Man villain “Venom” reached his peak as he whipped his tongue in nearly 10 issues per month! However, nothing was so purposely designed to twist a Catholic mother’s knickers or give naughty teenagers shit-eating grins than Garth Ennis’s and Steve Dillon’s PREACHER.
Pictured: my recent high school reunion
A counter jab to blasphemer Todd McFarlane’s majorly successful SPAWN series, PREACHER followed the antics of Jesse Custer, a Texan preacher imbued with the Word of God empowering all of his commands to be immediately obeyed (you’ve all seen ELLA ENCHANTED), as he castrates racist evildoers and eventually embarks on taking down the big man in the sky himself with help from Irish vampire Cassidy and gun-crazy ex girlfriend Tulip O’Hare. Fast forward 21 years later and AMC, trying to reignite the success of the comic to TV adaptation of THE WALKING DEAD, finally translates PREACHER over to the television medium with the help of dynamic duo Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen of all people. What we get is a handful of interesting characters heavily diluted by a lackluster hero. While the source material had no hesitation in world-building with classic comic book exposition dumps pertaining to backstories and the politics of God and his heavenly host, AMC’s show asks more questions than it answers as all good pilots should. Whether this were to stretch concepts thin or maintain an air of mystery, it would work best if our lead wasn’t such a brooding stick in the mud.
“God is a flat circle”
Of the trio, Jesse is easily the least engaging. With Cassidy and Tulip, we’re thrown right into the action, given surprisingly well choreographed interior plane and car fights respectively. Joe Gilgun absolutely nails what made Cassidy great in the comic with unhinged wit. Ruth Negga’s Tulip, switching things up by playing what was a white girl in the comics, is right in the sweet spot between warm and badass. Both contrast like night and day against Jesse’s sluggishness. Listening to his cringe-worthy melancholic musings is like watching an entirely different show alongside as-advertised blood fountains. The preacher takes up almost all of the pilot’s screen time, rejecting multiple calls to action. Even his big fight scene at the end is lazier. At times, Jesse wrestles with some intriguing questions concerning faith and God, but fan favorite bit character Arseface outshines him on that end in a single scene.
Too many Extreme Sour Warheads
The fault may be in Dominic Cooper’s dreary performance, the fact that the whole anti-hero trope has run its course, or a combination of the two. One could say that what was cool to a graphic novel audience of 90s teenagers would not hold up in the television format, yet a plethora of dialogue that accentuated Jesse’s edge in the first few comics has been omitted, leaving just a boring, emo husk for AMC. The only glint of hope for him is towards the end, where Jesse finally attains his powers and the episode gets one last playfully bloody button thanks to often overlooked comedian Brian Huskey. Let’s all pray that his newfound ability gives Jesse some much needed bite to contend with all the other Southern rapscallions on television.
Verdict: Sh** Probation
PREACHER airs on Sundays on AMC