Going Postal (TV, 2010)
From SFX 198.
This third attempt to capture Pratchett’s Discworld for the telly is more successful than its predecessors, but his novels are invested so heavily with the authorial voice that it’s never really going to work. The fashioning of TV necessarily involves stripping out Pratchett’s sly narration, and without it Discworld ceases to be Discworld.
Still, this is fun. The story is basically so: Moist Von Lipwig is a con man spared the gallows by Ankh-Morpork’s leader, Lord Vetinari, on condition he take up the challenge of revitalising the post office in the face of the semaphore ‘Clacks’ communications system. Chaos ensues.
Say ‘comedy fantasy’ to a telly-bod and they think ‘Mother Goose’. So it is with Going Postal, although only just, and the excellent cast try to keep the pantomime gurning to a minimum. The second episode is choppy, following all standard miniseries formulae, but the first sets up the scenario with economy and feeling. The bare bones of Pratchett’s story that survive provide an engaging plot, and a ghost of his satire on business makes the transition, although other targets, like modern telecommunications, are missed. Fans will probably be irritated both by the simplification of the plot and the actors’ mass-audience friendly renditions of the characters; mostly less extreme than their literary counterparts (note telly people! ‘extreme’ does not mean ‘Widow Twankey’).
Pratchett’s stuff is pretty extreme on the whole, actually. To make it work it on screen someone equally as talented in TV as Pratchett is in books needs to come in and replace essence of Terry with essence of telly. Pratchett himself was involved in the script here, but television always will be an alien environment to him.
Ultimately, Going Postal is another massively worshipful offering shackled to the nags of TV convention, providing scraps of fan service while failing entirely to televise what actually makes Pratchett great.
Moist: “[The magazine ‘Extreme Pins’] certainly has a lot of women in leather”.
Dave the pin-dealer: “Yeah, but they’re all holding pins.”
‘Going postal’ is a phrase that means to lose one’s temper, big time. It was coined in America after a series of incidents from the 1980s onwards where disgruntled postal workers gunned down colleagues. Nice.
We enjoyed Adrian Schiller’s take on Banshee assassin Mr. Gryle, whose accent can only be described as ‘psychotic kebab vendor’.
In the frame
Many extras were fans, dressed in their own costumes.