Wednesday, 2 January 2013

TV Review: In Praise of 'The Almighty Johnsons'

Right, so there are all these Norse gods, and they all emigrated to New Zealand on the same boat. Their descendants each get reincarnated as one or other of the gods when they reach the age of twenty one. Only their powers tend to diminish over time, so they are only a shadow of what they once were. But if a reincarnated Odin meets the reincarnation of his eternal love, Frigg, then all the gods will be restored to their former glory and Asgard will return to Earth once more. Or something.

Are you keeping up so far? Good. Because in the first episode of 'The Almighty Johnsons', Axl, the youngest of the four Johnson brothers, celebrates his twenty first birthday, and discovers he is - Odin. The search is on to find Frigg, because if Axl/Odin fails and dies without a godly union with Frigg, all four brothers will die.

And for anyone out there saying but... but... WHY, you're completely missing the point. Maybe you missed the part about emigrating to New Zealand, because this is Kiwis we're talking about and if there's one thing weirder than the weirdest thing you can possibly imagine it's the Kiwi sense of humour. 'The Almighty Johnsons' is the funniest and absolutely the best show on TV, but you probably need the right receptors in your brain to enjoy it properly.

For one thing, New Zealanders talk New Zealandish, which is not the easiest language in the world for English speakers to grasp. For the first few episodes, I swear I missed one word in three, and I spent almost an entire show mystified by a strange sport I'd never heard of before. This neatball was obviously popular with Kiwis, but what could it possibly be? Only when I saw the players filing onto the court did it dawn on me - oh, it's NETBALL. Doh.

Then there’s the sex. Now in most TV shows, sex is either soft-focus romantic stuff or else it’s outright porn. This is - not either of those. This is naked bodies with strategically placed cushions or milk cartons or just hands, and there’s a lot of nakedness that’s nothing to do with sex at all, it’s just people with no clothes on. It’s good old-fashoned farce, basically.

The plot - well, let’s not worry overmuch about the plot. It really isn’t important. The second series was even better than the first, if a little darker, and every episode completely unpredictable and off-the-wall and laugh-out-loud funny. We got Maori gods in the mix as well, which complicated everything hugely and produced a great big cliff-hanger ending. And then the show was cancelled. OH NO! But - phew! - the fans got up a petition and sent bits of twig to the producers (don’t ask) and - YAY! - a third series is in the pipeline. Thank the (Norse) gods.

Footnote: 'The Almighty Johnsons' has, to date, only been shown in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, UK and Brazil. If you live outside those areas - try to get hold of the DVDs.

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