The following story originally appeared on Throng New Zealand for the premiere of The Almighty Johnsons.
We attended the preview screening of South Pacific Pictures’ brand new comedy/drama The Almighty Johnsons which debuts tonight at 10pm on SyFy.
Before going into the premiere, I’d only seen the trailer and thought that the show probably wasn’t going to be my cup of tea. That being said, I was definitely curious to see what the creators of Outrageous Fortune, James Griffin and Rachel Lang, were up to next.
The introduction of the show is a little bit like an Outrageous Fortune season premiere: if you’re offended by sex, nudity (often of the close up nipple shot variety), swearing and more sex, then you’ll almost certainly switch off before the first ad break. After that, it gets a lot more tame and a lot more interesting and my thoughts of Outrageous Fortune fade well into the distance. The show is so, so different.
Without getting into specifics first – and putting the potentially offensive aspects to one side - I really enjoyed the show and am looking forward to the rest of the season.
When was the last time you saw a TV show with only strong male leads? I’m trying very hard to think of one – Kiwi or otherwise. For years now it’s all been about women taking control and being the man of the house. Men have regularly been portrayed as the weaker sex and the butt of the jokes.
The Almighty Johnsons has not one but five strong male leads who each have their flaws, their strengths (and not just their superpowered ones) and are actually likable. For me to stick with a show, it’s all about me liking the characters and caring about what happens to them. So many Kiwi shows have had a great basis for a story but I’ve felt so let down by the characters who are often cold and distant. Rachel Lang and James Griffin have had this incredible knack of creating characters who are realistic and lovable and I think they’ve done this again with The Almighty Johnsons.
Tim Balme and Ben Barrington stood out the most to me but all the male actors worked really well. I even could make the mental switch from seeing Jared Turner as naked-Ben in Go Girls to his new role as Ty.
Supporting them are some nice female characters – I really liked Keisha Castle-Hughes’ character as the cute flatmate with a crush on one of the brothers who doesn’t quite have the guts to tell him. I wasn’t sure I’d like seeing Keisha on the small screen. The last time I saw her (not in the print gossip columns, red carpets or magazines) was actually The Whale Rider. Keisha is still a star and I think the show will remind us again of why we loved her. Roz Turnbull plays the wife of the oldest brother and we had a little chat before going into the show. I’m so, so embarrassed to admit that I forgot she played Rochelle on Outrageous Fortune until afterwards. She’s gorgeous in person and nothing like Rochelle… but I digress!
The supernatural elements
I was a little worried early in the pilot that the show could go quite B-grade with special effects or superpowers or go all Xena on us but I was able to relax. The superpowers – while interesting and with lots of scope for potential usage – aren’t the sole focus of the show and their powers are still rather limited (but will grow). Side point: the red sea was well done.
There’s lots of scope for all sorts of stories and directions for where the show can go, as well as having a clearly defined overriding arc. It’s a show where superheroes inhabit our world (not Gotham city) and have everyday struggles too. There’s lots of mystery, intrigue and back story (Are the parents still alive? Who else are gods? Who’s the soulmate?).
If you’re into history and mythology, there’s lots of room for you to read up on Norse Gods and their fates. I don’t know anything about it so was left vaguely guessing as to who the mysterious women in the show are.
I’d so love it if Mount Hobson was used in a promo for the show like it was in the premiere. Even if it isn’t, Aucklanders will laugh because they know how often the mountain has some sort of rude symbol or message on its side, clearly visible from the Southern Motorway.
It looked like parts were filmed in Woodhill Forest, or near Muriwai Beach in the forest.
Was it deliberate irony that we’re told the Norse Gods fled from religious persecution by moving to New Zealand yet Axl lives in a flat right next door to a church?
The most shocking moment
No, it wasn’t the sex. It was a little ground-breaking moment that I’ve never seen on TV before and one which I thought was potentially quite empowering for women who have been through it. Kudos to the writers for including this in there (and for making you laugh with a great punchline about it afterwards.) I’ll leave this for you to see and give your thoughts on without spoiling it.
Any things I didn’t like?
There’s a lot packed into the first episode that I really felt like I needed to see it again to pick up on more things. I felt that Dean O’Gorman’s character’s storyline was a little rushed and I was a bit confused about what was going on there initially. Like Lost, I feel like I’ll get more out of the show if I researched a bit up on the mythology and hope that there will be lots of online discussion about theories on the show so I can get more out of it.
The Almighty Johnsons really do have the potential to be the new family that Kiwis tune in to watch and talk about for the next five plus years to come.
The Almighty Johnsons debuts on February 2nd at 10pm on SyFy.