Stop! Discworld Time: Cassie-la Talks “Going Postal” and How British TV is Better than American TV

Book: Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
: “Going Postal
Genre: Fiction, humor, fantasy, post offices are way cool
Rating: 4.6 out of 5 (mini-series)

Summary: Through a little luck, con artist Moist von Lipwig is saved from the gallows, the only catch is he must be the new Postmaster of the Ankh-Morpork Post Office. Too bad the last four Postmasters died under mysterious circumstances. Between his one-sided romance with the spunky Adora Belle Dearheart and his fight against the semaphore service the Clanks, it takes all of Lipwig’s skills to keep his life and his job.

Based on Terry Pratchett’s novel of the same name, “Going Postal” is the perfect entrance into Discworld.

A year ago, I downloaded this British two-part television mini-series and have just gotten around to watching it. YAY FREE TIME! I’m only sad I didn’t watch it sooner, because it was pretty damn good. Mostly because British television is far superior to American television. This is obviously fact and not opinion because it now exists on the internet.

This series, produced by Sky One, is the same television network who previously released Hogfather (another awesome Pratchett adaptation featuring Death’s daughter Susan and a Discworld satire on Christmas) and The Colour of Magic, which I did not watch because I am not a fan of Rincewind or his walking suitcase. Although, Sean Astin, Christopher Lee, AND Tim Curry are in it, which should be reason enough to give it a shot. I’ve suffered through worse for Tim Curry.

Now where was I? Right, British television is better than American television. HBO and Showtime not withstanding, American television cannot broadcast fun things like cursing and boobies unless it’s late at night, whereas British television can curse and show body parts whenever they want. See: “Skins” and “Misfits“. In addition to this, they do fun things like produce television mini-series based on BOOKS. Not old 80’s movies like Teen Wolf, but BOOKS.

The last time I recall an American television mini-series based on a book was two creature features, Peter Benchley’s “The Beast” about a blood-thirsty giant squid- or was it an octopus?, and one about a scientifically modified shark who could walk on land, which was also from a Peter Benchley novel called “The Creature”. But that was in the 90’s. It has to be because my dad taped them for me on VHS. And it’s from a Peter Benchley novel, so it must automatically be taken less seriously. I’m pretty sure the fact that the SHARK MONSTER LOOKED LIKE THIS makes it even more of a farce.

That being said, I can now delve into why “Going Postal” was such a wonderful television adaptation. Please note that I have not gotten around to reading the novel itself because I’m a horrible bibliophile who is very very behind on her Discworld novels.

“Books must be treated with respect, we feel that in our bones, because words have power. Bring enough words together they can bend space and time.” Mustrum Ridcully, Archchancellor of the Unseen University

First things first, a lot must be said about the portrayal of Terry Pratchett’s characters, the first being the con art Moist von Lipwig (the w’s being pronounced as v’s like a vampire would say them). After being a super capable con artist who was arrested for causing a banking crisis through fake bonds, Moist is imprisoned and sentenced to hang. However, his fate is spared by an angel (really?) and he is instead given the choice to become the city Postmaster or face another even more painful death. He is guarded by his parole officer/co-worker, a giant golem made out of clay named Mr. Pump. While not the must trustful of narrators, he is nevertheless an extremely entertaining one. Especially when he puts on his Postmaster’s hat, which is kind of something the Greek God Hermes would wear.

The best character by far however is Adora Belle Dearheart, whose father invented the Clack system, the Discworld version of the telegraph, here referred to as a semaphore system, which I assume is very British. She’s looks like Wednesday Addams, and features the same spunk, morbid sense of humour, and proclivity for violence. She’s a chain smoker with a dark past who runs the Golem Trust and there’s so much sexual tension between her and Lipwig that you could cut it with a knife. Or with her very pointy stiletto shoes which she has a penchant for shoving into people’s feet.

Then there is the satire on the postal system. Lipwig creates a scam he calls stamps, which people have to buy to send out a letter, despite the fact that it’s merely a piece of paper with no monetary value. This in turn gets even more ridiculous when people start collecting these stamps by sending letters to themselves. This lead me to research the history of stamps which is just as boring as you’d imagine.

Overall, the series is well scripted and the look and feel of the film is spot on. Ankh-Morpork is at both times familiar yet wholly unfamiliar, a fantasy world with an indiscernible time frame. There is also a pervading sense of the ridiculous, from the use of golems to the vampire who works as a camera man for the local newspaper. There are also two small appearances by Discword and City Watch favourite Captain Delphine Angua von Überwald a policewoman for the city AND a werewolf. The dog collar she wears in uniform was a particularly nice touch. Although the excessive black eye makeup was a tad confusing. Werewolves have particularly large bags around their eyes I suppose, or something to that effect.

After some light research, I have also learned that this is a decently faithful adaptation, although they removed Death, by far one of my favourite characters in the series. You know Death is talking because HE SPEAKS IN ALL CAPITOL LETTERS LIKE THIS. He can also be found in the Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman novel Good Omens talking in much the same manner.

So the next time you’re trying to find something worthwhile to watch in your spare time, check out some British television. Remember, cursing + boobies = profit.


2 thoughts on “Stop! Discworld Time: Cassie-la Talks “Going Postal” and How British TV is Better than American TV

  1. Sounds fantastic. I don’t have Sky but you’ve encouraged me to seek out DVD versions of the Discworld adaptations. Very informative review, thank you.

    As for whether British TV is better, well, thanks for the compliment but I’d say we’re fairly enamoured with American TV over here! The majority of the TV box sets in my house are American TV… House, Sex and the City, Ally McBeal, Frasier, Seinfeld, The Simpsons… True, we do make good telly over here, but we’re none too good at longevity. It’s always really annoying when a good series gets going and then is axed after one or two series. It seems to be a requirement in the US that a TV series needs to last a decade!
    I don’t know if you’ve caught the new series of Torchwood? America seems very keen on Doctor Who and Torchwood has turned into an American/British hybrid. A bit odd, if you ask me. There was something charming about a sci fi series set in Cardiff, Wales.


    PS. I think semaphore used to be a flag signalling system. Like on the cover of the Beatles album ‘Help!’

    • Most of them are out already or you can probably find them on the internet. That’s how I got my hands on this.

      See, I hate most of those American TV shows. Also, the longevity thing is both good and bad. If the show ends early, it’s more likely it will end before it starts to sucks, but you’ll also end up with a desire to see more. Here, we make a show last several seasons after it’s jumped the shark, making it unwatchable after a certain point. There are a lot of shows here that should have been canceled a long time ago, and a lot that shouldn’t have been canceled at all.

      I have tried watching “Torchwood: Miracle Day” but the switching between accents and settings just threw me so much!

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