Preacher’ drains the life from a classic comic-book series

Small-town Texas preacher Jesse Custer has a shady past and the newfound ability to make people do anything he says.

Two stars

Preacher Sundays, 9 p.m. (premieres May 22, 10 p.m.), AMC.

In the more than 20 years since the first issue of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s comic book Preacher was released, talents including Kevin Smith, Mark Steven Johnson and Sam Mendes have tried and failed to adapt the series for film or television. It’s not hard to see why: Preacher is vulgar, violent, grandiose and blasphemous, with a deliberately offensive tone. It’s an imperfect piece of work that can come off as dated, but at least it’s always interesting, which is more than can be said for the adaptation that has finally made it to TV thanks to Seth Rogen and his longtime creative partner Evan Goldberg.

Along with Breaking Bad writer-producer Sam Clatlin, Rogen and Goldberg created the version of Preacher airing on AMC, and while it retains the basic elements of the comics, it diverges pretty significantly from the source material in plot and tone, taking a manic, over-the-top dark comedy and turning it into a serious, agonizingly slow prestige-style drama. There’s less going on in the four episodes provided for review than in a single issue of the comic book, and the show downplays the supernatural elements so strongly, it’s sometimes tough to tell if they’re even meant to be real or just products of the characters’ imagination.

Small-town Texas preacher Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) has a shady past and the newfound ability to make people do anything he says, which might come from God, although the show remains vague on that point. Jesse’s criminal ex-girlfriend Tulip (Ruth Negga) and Irish vampire Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) are also hanging around, but their purposes are equally ill-defined. The characters brood and scowl but rarely take action, and the pacing is far more dull than methodical. Even the look of the show is uninspired, a dusty brown palette that settles over everything. By the end of the fourth episode, the plot starts to show slight signs of life, but there’s nothing to indicate that the show will capture the energy and creativity of the source material that should set it apart.

Tags: Television
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