The Almighty Johnsons: A Review

TAJ

Here it is, the beginning of the new fall TV season and the only thing I find compelling is a quirky series from New Zealand that my good friend Lesley has been urging me to watch for some time. Since she doesn’t watch much TV and is very selective, her recommendation is high praise indeed. She previously hit the bullseye (years ago, did I mention that she doesn’t watch much TV) when she said and I paraphrase “Ann, I just finished watching Arrested Development on DVD and really enjoyed it. Do you want to borrow it? I think it is up your alley.” True friend, she knows me well.

Warning is required, the language and adult situations are beyond the usual network fare and rank with that of US premium cable. The clip below is definitely NSFW.

The Almighty Johnsons just aired its 3rd (and perhaps final) season finale on Space, here in Canada. The series is due to air in the U.S. on SyFy in 2014. For those with a multi-regional DVD player (I just love mine) the 1st 2 seasons are only avaIlable in R2/PAL format and bargain priced on Amazon.co.uk. Money well spent.

My husband and I binge-watched the first 2 seasons (10 +13 episodes) and can’t wait to start the third. It has left us with a neglected stockpile of fall TV episodes that can wait (Supernatural, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Sleepy Hollow) because none of them are as good as this import. The characters are authentic and the dialogue is super funny. In fact, a bit of hunting reveals a fan blog devoted to The Almighty Johnsons quotes.

The Almighty Johnsons is the story of 4 brothers and their quest. The show begins on the youngest brother, Axl’s, 21st birthday. His 3 older brothers tell him the family secret. That is, they are all reincarnationed Norse Gods and they acquire special powers at age 21. Granted, these powers are of varying degrees of awesomeness and sometimes more trouble than they are worth. However, when it is revealed that Axl (Emmett Skilton) is reincarnated ODIN, Allfather of the Gods things get interesting. If he fulfills Odin’s destiny, he will restore full powers to all the gods. Of course, that puts a comedic turn on life. Oh yes, did I mention that if he dies before he achieves his destiny, his entire family dies too? No pressure.

And what is this destiny? It is to reunite with the modern day reincarnation of the goddess FRIGG. In doing so, Asgard will be rebuilt and the full power of gods will be restored. With the help of his older brothers, Mike (Timothy Balme) aka ULLR, god of skill, hunt, duel and all games, Anders (Dean O’Gorman) aka as BRAGI, god of poetry and persuasion, Ty (Jared Turner) aka HODR, god of all things cold and dark and his eternally youthful and somewhat stoned, so-called oracle grandfather Olaf (Ben Barrington) aka BALDR, god of rebirth, light and beauty, Axl embarks on a quest to find the Frigg. Who the frig is Frigg? as I like to call this task, borrowing a quote. Meanwhile he juggles an otherwise typical student existence and we get acquainted with the rest of his family and friends.

This TV show is a perfectly quirky mix of fantasy, coming of age drama, family dysfunction, stoner comedy, comedy of errors, and relationship angst. The Johnsons are well characterized and realistically depicted. Mike the oldest brother, bears a heavy burden, ever since he was left by their mother at age 21 to look after his 3 brothers. Fast forward a decade and a half, he still has trouble shedding his role as pater families. He is the one everyone runs to when trouble hits. Navigating a dual existence  among gods and men is a trip up Rio de CaCa without a paddle for the Johnson clan. Blending in with the masses may seem simple at first. But trying to have a lasting relationship with the love of one’s life requires some deft and ridiculous maneuvering when everyone one touches rapidly slips into a hypothermic state (poor Ty). Just how does one embark on a quest to reunite with one’s destined partner, in order to fulfill a prophecy, when would rather get serious with a hot roommate (poor Axl). It ends in trouble for the Johnsons and fun for the viewer.

Complicating the family dynamic is Mike’s estrangement from Anders. Why that is, is revealed in time. Anders is the most problematic character on the show, as he uses his powers to take advantage of women. He has convinced himself the he never compels anyone to do anything they don’t really want to do. His brothers know otherwise and are justified in their disapproval. Anders’ character does make me uneasy, but I am glad that his behaviour is not glossed over. Sadly, his character is quite authentic, as are the rest of the characters.

My favourite Johnson is Olaf, grandpa, who doesn’t age and lives to surf and smoke dope. He is the family Oracle, and is constantly reminded at how useless he is at that. And yet he occasionally drops a pearl of wisdom, always a delightful thing to catch.

If you like New Zealand accents, quirky stories, and are in the mood for a new and hilarious adult themed fantasy based series (‘cuz some of the old ones are getting a bit stale, cough, cough, Supernatural), The Almighty Johnsons might just be for you.

Late Addition!

I finished the 3rd season on the treadmill (that it got me to exercise is a true test) yesterday and enjoyed it tremendously. The snappy comedic dialogue, hilarious plot elements and amazing acting elevate this show and makes it easy to forgive the occasional weaker story or character elements. It satisfied me with an excellent conclusion, yet it left the door ajar for future stories. Sadly, a fourth season is not on the horizon, yet. But I can live with that. I can’t wait to watch it again, when my daughters are old enough to watch it with me. They have caught glimpses here and there (when they snuck out of their rooms to find out why Mom and Dad are laughing so hard) and found it very funny and begged for more. As I was uncomfortable with exposing them to some of the adult situations, I said that we would have to wait a bit until my youngest was ready. This was met with an exasperated sigh and a revealing declaration “That is why we have eyelids Mom! We don’t want to see that stuff either. But the rest looks good.” I may be watching it again sooner than I would have guessed.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Outrageous Fortune: Guilty Pleasure TV, New Zealand | What is Ann Watching?

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