discworld tv series the watch

The First Reviews for BBC’s The Watch Are Not Sold on the Series

The adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books has been meet with negative reviews.
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Adapting a beloved book series for film and television is rarely an easy task. Fans can be exactingly particular about how they envision a world and its characters, and creators can find themselves walking a fine line between honoring the source material and creating their version of the world onscreen. But few have been met with the outright antipathy that BBC’s The Watch has already inspired.

From its initial announcement, the creators of The Watch emphasized that the series was “inspired by” Pratchett’s work, and not a direct adaptation. But the cyber-punk aesthetic rattled diehard fans of Discworld, and as more images and trailers where released, more folks grew upset with the liberties the series seemed to be taking.

Adding fuel to the fire were tweets from Terry Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna Pratchett, who wrote “Look, I think it’s fairly obvious that
@TheWatch shares no DNA with my father’s Watch. This is neither criticism nor support. It is what it is.”

Neil Gaiman, who co-wrote Good Omens with Pratchett, also tweeted in defense of the original book series and the perils of adaptations that stray too far from their source material, writing “If you do something else, you risk alienating the fans on a monumental scale. It’s not Batman if he’s now a news reporter in a yellow trenchcoat with a pet bat.”

And now that the first reviews for The Watch are trickling in, critics are finding the series to be a tonally jumbled mess. The Watch follows the adventures of the Ankh Morpork City Watch police force, first introduced in Pratchett’s Guards! Guards!, as they try to bring law and order to an increasingly out of control city. Here are some of the early reviews for the highly anticipated series.

Zack Handlen, Polygon:

The Watch is wacky. Exhaustingly so, really, full of rapid-fire cuts, incongruous music choices, and a sense of humor that should be familiar to anyone who’s seen an animated movie in the past 10 years. Some of the jokes land, while many of them don’t, but that style feels directly at odds with the series’ source of inspiration. Pratchett’s Discworld novels are the fantasy equivalent of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — dry, farcical humor that winks at the audience — except that they have more warmth, better world-building, and a deep, pervasive humanism.”

Cynthia Vinney, Comic Book Resources:

“It’s difficult to care about the characters too. The actors do what they can with the material they’re given, each committing to their characters’ specific traits and backgrounds. I especially enjoyed Eaton-Kent’s Cheery, whose smart sensitivity is a nice counterpoint to her cynical or naive colleagues. Still, the show is so caught up in maintaining its punk-rock aesthetic and devil-may-care attitude, it never makes anything onscreen feel worth investing in. So while The Watch boasts impressively designed sets, costumes and characters that create a strong sense of place — even if that place isn’t necessarily Pratchett’s Discworld — it has little going for it other than its style.”

William Hughes, The A.V. Club

“It’s difficult to figure out who the hell The Watch is for. It’s not for fans of the books it’s based on. It’s not for fans of cop shows (too anarchic and disorganized). It’s not for punks, because, well, the cops. And, to be fair, there are moments when the series is able to convert that “Fuck you, we’re making the show we like” spirit into an asset, as in its third episode, which sees The Watch form its own literal punk band for no real reason other than the people making the show thought it would be fun. (It is.) But sometimes punk-rock anarchy is indistinguishable from simple, tuneless thrashing, and that’s a pitfall The Watch falls into more often than not. It’s worth a watch, if only to see if you’re the person BBC America has made it for. But don’t be surprised if it doesn’t turn out to be the watch for you.”

However, Nerdist gave the series a positive review, citing its world-building and committed performances:

Michael Walsh, Nerdist:

“As a non-Discworld-reader, I can only judge it by what I see on my screen. And what I’ve seen through five episodes of The Watch is a funny, exciting, heartfelt fantasy action-comedy that features plenty of mystery, lots of laughs, and a fantastic cast.

“I don’t know if that will be possible for book readers. But if you can accept that this is not Discworld novels come to life, you will find an enjoyable, funny series full of heart that takes place in an interesting place with characters worth caring about. That sounds like a Terry Pratchett story to me, and those are always worth your time.”

We’ll have to wait and see for ourselves how the series strikes us, but it looks like the less you know about the source material, the better. The Watch premieres on BBC America on January 3, with the first episode arriving on New Year’s Eve on AMC+ streaming.

(featured image: BBC America)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.