Genre TV drama has been having a vintage season of late. The Living and the Dead re-established the BBC's reputation for innovative ghost stories. Now from America comes Preacher, a show that has a Buffy-esque energy and inventiveness, but an altogether more adult take on all things magical.
The setup is simple. Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) is the preacher in the small Texas town of Annville, where life is dominated by the local cattle baron, the violent, bonkers atheist Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley). Jesse is a frankly poor preacher but he took over the church out of a sense of duty to his father - who was killed in the line of preacherly duty - and because he has nowhere else to go. It soon emerges that the Rev Custer is a lot better at beating the crap out of people than preaching because he has been a career criminal.
Three characters then enter Jesse's life. There's Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun, formerly of Emmerdale, apparently), an Irish vampire fleeing the forces of justice and/or revenge. There's Jesse's former lover Tulip O'Hare (Ruth Negga) who wants him to join her in a question for vengeance against a former member of their gang. And there's a thing from another world that possesses Jesse and gives him a superpower. The latter's arrival allows Jesse to do God's work in Annville, or so he thinks, but life quickly becomes complicated. Then two angels arrive, seeking to extract the divine being from Jesse, one way or another.
That's the bare bones of the story, but the great joy of Preacher is the way in which a gritty and brutal main plot is interwoven with the bizarre, Texan-Gothic world of of Annville. This is a show whose character list features a certain 'Arseface', which is an accurate description of Eugene, the Sherriff's son. There are also excellent running gags, such as the feud between Annville's town macots, one PC, the other not. Throw in two rogue (and very British) angels who have a literal hotline to God, and you've got a very strange mixture. There's a whiff of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials in the overall theme, too.
Preacher is not for everyone. I suspect that many people who enjoyed the old-world charms of The Living and the Dead will be turned off by Preacher's sex, violence, and wise-cracking approach to the occult. But for me its a breath of sort-of-fresh air after so many promising supernatural series turned out to be just another load glorified fan fiction. Anyway, here's a mid-season trailer. Did I mention that it's visually superb, with various nods (explicit, in yet another running gag) to the Cohn Brothers?