What to do, what to do. Lots of airtime to fill between “Sharknado” installments and Smackdown episodes. What can we here at SyFy do about that? Hey, look, here’s an already cancelled New Zealand TV series that’s just laying around. Let’s broadcast that.
“The Almighty Johnsons.” Double entendre title, Norse mythology, tie into that whole ‘Thor’ thing that’s happening, throw in some profanity and partial nudity in the Blu-ray release, we’re good to go until “Sharknado 5.” Right?
Um, no. Season One of “The Almighty Johnsons” gives us a hero show that perversely avoids anything heroic in favor of soap opera histrionics. The aforenamed Johnsons are four brothers – Mike, Ty, Axl, and Anders –who are secretly reincarnations of Norse gods who left Valhalla in the distant, sketchily-explained past and went into hiding among mortals. The youngest brother Axl is the re-incarnation of Odin, and the family prophecy says he must go on a quest to find his beloved Frigg (heh, he said Frigg), who is also in hiding among the mortals. When he reunites with her, the Gods will be restored and Asgard will be rebuilt and there’ll be free Valhalla Vegemite for all. Or something like that.
There’s also a family oracle (who looks like Arnold Vosloo’s hippy doppleganger) and a group of Goddesses who oppose the brethren, plotting to find Frigg first (heh, he said Frigg again), but whatever. Don’t give yourself a headache. Nobody here seems to be in any hurry on that whole quest thing, spending the majority of time instead on daytime TV bickering and coyly photographed shagging.
With limited exceptions, it’s indifferently acted and scripted, with a generic directing and visual style owing more to Viagra commercials than prime-time TV. Maybe I’m expecting too much from the standards and budgets of Kiwi television, but the look of general cheapness extends to bland set design, occasional indoor scenes that look they’re lit by Coleman lanterns, and static photography. What’s the opposite of action-packed? Action-lacked, maybe?
Actor Tim Balme, who plays the oldest brother,,,,er, what’s his name again? Looking at the Blu-ray box, I see his name is Mike. Anyway. Balme is the only actor to come out of this mess okay, bringing a modicum of dignity to the responsible killjoy role. Keisha Castle-Hughes, years removed from her charming turn in “Whale Rider,” is wasted in a underwritten role, and fans of the “Hobbit” films may or may not recognize Dean O’Gorman (the dwarf Fili in the trilogy) as the glib, smooth-talking Anders, the womanizing brother with the heart of tin.
The all-knowing, all-powerful Internet informs me that this show was originally cancelled in New Zealand after the second season, but was amazingly saved for a final third season by a fan campaign involving lots of online petition knees-bent-running-about, and the mailing of twigs (something about the Norse tree of life?).
So if you ever need to win an argument about taste in New Zealand, use this info as your go-to, money on the table game-changer. You’re welcome.
The Blu-ray of “The Almighty Johnsons, Season 1” is presented in 10 episodes on three discs, in 1080i high definition. The disc transfer seems adequate technically, but no amount of hi-def can help the sleep-inducing visual style and pacing. There is an option for English SDH subtitles.
The audio track is a passable but dull Stereo 2.0, and there are no set-up options.
- an affable but dullish commentary track for Episode 1 with actors Tim Balme (Mike), Emmett Skilton (Axl), and director Mark Beesley.
- A set of promo cast interviews
Not everything coming out of New Zealand’s film industry is a thrill ride. Drawn-out and tedious, Season One of “The Almighty Johnsons” is an almighty bore.