The Watch: A Near Vimes Experience
January 7, 2021 2:30 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Capt. Sam Vimes' life of drinking and being fairly useless is interrupted when a supposedly dead figure from his past returns to Ankh-Morpork. Inspired by the work of Sir Terry Prachett.

20 years ago, Vimes watched his street brother and gang-leader Carcer Dun fall from a fatal height and became Captain of the Watch at the same time. Since then, while Vimes has attempted to drink away his guilt, the city has become an increasing haven for crime. But now Carcer is a back, and Vimes may actually have to do his job for once and protect the city.
posted by miss-lapin (20 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
While there has been a lot of anticipation for this series, it's been met with a great deal of criticism by Discworld fans because it plays fast and loose with the source material. It's quite different in that way from previous BBC adaptations (The Colour of Magic, Hogfather, and Going Postal) of the Discworld novels. While I enjoying the series so far, I admit I don't like this version of Death. However, I am very pleased with a lot of other points like Jo Eaton-Kent, a gender fluid actor, being cast as Cheery. As Den of Geek pointed out, the series did a wonderful, and I feel a very Prachettian, job dealing with gender expectations:

ANGUA: Cheery’s our forensic officer. Nothing she doesn’t know about potions and powders.

I'm really excited to see Marama Corlett, who I loved as Aki in the sadly ignored Blood Drive. Corlett, in fact, has my favorite moment in e1. When Carrot (a earnest young recruit) discovers that Angua (Corlett) is a werewolf, he asks her why she doesn't keep out the moonlight to remain in human form she says, "Because I'm not just this. Just like you're not just human. Most humans would have run by now or tried to kill me. " At that point she closes the door to her cell in order to safely transform.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:54 AM on January 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yeah, so far I'm enjoying it? It's not the Ankh-Morpork I had mentally pictured, but it certainly follows from the source material as much as anything ever could? I think Dormer is a perfectly fine Vimes, they seem to have sorta danced around Cheery being damn near as tall as Carrot, and Sybil is played wonderfully.

I do think they might be leaning a bit much on people's familiarity with the source material, but I haven't gotten fremdshämen from just how goddamn _earnest_ it is like the other productions I've tried and failed to watch through.

(I mean on the one hand I sorta always mentally pictured Ankh-Morpork as your traditional D&D middle-ages city, like a dirtier European city that survived WW2. But magic would've changed that, and it's clear Pratchett intended it to be much closer to the 1800's or 1900's than the 1300's, what with Motion Pictures and the clacks and such. So Victorian D&D?)
posted by Kyol at 6:40 AM on January 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

I love the Discworld books, and the ones focused on the Watch are my absolute favourites. I have a very strong mental image of the characters (both in terms of appearance and behaviour) from re-reading the books over and over again, and watching this TV version gave me severe mental whiplash.

I kept on thinking stuff like "Wait, why is Angua so short? Carrot would never resign from the Watch! Why isn't Death speaking IN ALL CAPS? Vetinari would never allow Slab to become legal! Wait, that character who is absolutely lacking any sort of sausage-inna-bun is meant to be Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler?!". And most importantly, for the whole 43-minute run of the first episode - "Where the hell is Nobby Nobbs???".

I felt so discombobulated that I'm entirely unable to judge if it's any good. The re-imagined goblins and Lady Ramkin were pretty great, but I'm not sure if that's enough to get me to watch the second episode. There's something fundamentally disturbing about a Discworld without Nobby Nobbs - I don't think I could cope.
posted by yours in calendrical heresy at 7:07 AM on January 7, 2021 [9 favorites]

I'm not at all familiar with the novels, and enjoyed these first episodes.

My only problem is I don't have a very good ear for accents, and the BBC America captions (through Direct TV) just don't seem to work. I only get about every third line.
posted by Marky at 10:46 AM on January 7, 2021

Neil Gaiman put it succinctly, " 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."

I was super excited until Rhianna Pratchett basically said "Meh" (Look, I think it's fairly obvious that The Watch shares no DNA with my father's Watch. This is neither criticism nor support. It is what it is.) about the project.

It's not my Discworld, but it has a few of its own charms.
posted by porpoise at 5:09 PM on January 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Marky: if you have DirecTV, you can stream The Watch on AMC, which has complete subtitles (I know your pain with DirecTV subtitles). Unfortunately, steaming on AMC without paying extra gives you commercials which you can't skip.
posted by ShooBoo at 7:54 PM on January 7, 2021

previous BBC adaptations
They were made by Sky (the Murdoch-owned TV satellite channel), not the BBC. It's the sort of thing that prods me enough that I need to mention it.

(It's actually quite significant who makes the programmes - it explains why they look like they do and play like they do. The adaptations of the Pratchett books that Sky made were supposed to be prestige programmes, so they looked great but were over-long and stretched out and v-e-e-r-y slow, which killed most of the comedy stone dead. The adaptation of Good Omens was a BBC/Amazon co-production - most of the expensive BBC shows are co-productions - which at least made it snappier.)
posted by Grangousier at 5:39 AM on January 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

Can't seem to find if or when this will be shown in the UK. Anyone got any idea?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:16 PM on January 9, 2021

it's been met with a great deal of criticism by Discworld fans because it plays fast and loose with the source material.

I'm a long time fan of Sir Terry and while it's not "A Discworld Story", replacing D&D Ankh-Morpork with... Thatcheresque? Gilliamesque? whatever this is isn't a bad idea, and so far they're sticking the execution. Errol the dragon flying away as per expectations was very nice. Was nice to see Gaspode.
posted by mikelieman at 8:52 AM on January 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

It's not my Discworld, but it has a few of its own charms.

Which makes me think, did they even mention The Great A'Tuin? This works very well then in the "The next universe over" sense.
posted by mikelieman at 8:54 AM on January 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Do we want to treat this as a whole season post? Some of the complaints were addressed in the second episode.

Frankly, that one more episode in and it's definitely grabbed me, although they're dropping so many HEY BOOK READERS D'YA REMEMBER THIS that it's a little exhausting at times.
posted by Kyol at 9:32 AM on January 11, 2021

I’m convinced that Dormer got his inspiration for playing Vimes from watching Michael Keaton’s Dogberry in Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing.
posted by hanov3r at 7:37 PM on January 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Michael Keaton’s Dogberry

Good call. There's a lot of Keaton's Beetlejuice and Chris Meloni's character from 'Happy!'
posted by porpoise at 10:08 PM on January 11, 2021

<mods - please delete as inappropriate if OP wants this to be show-only>

Split off from my last comment if inappriopriate.

Coming to terms that this show as its own thing, very loosely inspired by Discworld, this Vimes is somewhat amusing but the character development timeline is all wobbly.

Curious that this show is a mashup of 'Guards! Guards' (#8, the original The Watch-centric story, published in 1989; the dragon summoning plot arc) and 'Night Watch' (#29, 6th or 7th [of 8 or 9, if counting shorts] The Watch story, published in 2002; the Carcer plot arc).

There is a tremendous amount of daylight in Vime's development between the two.

Book Carcer was simply a psychopath, closer to Mr. Teatime ("It's pronounced Te-ah-tim-eh!") from 'The Hogfather,' and had no relation to Vimes' youth gang days. From the cast listing, it looks like Willikins isn't in the show (Vime's eventual butler, and actual fellow youth gang member).

I'm assuming that the time travel (for Vimes) is being dropped for the show. Which I totally expected since without background from a few novels/ shows, it wouldn't have meant anything to someone fresh to the story.

But I'm almost glad for that since the show isn't going to have to cast Lu-Tze.

I like the actors doing Angua and Cheery, but both only have homeopathic traces of the book characters. iirc, Cheery is a relatively later introduction, and the use of the character in-show seems to overlap Igor (another relatively later introduction).

I don't mind the re-imagining of Lady Sybil Ramkin, but that role is an even greater departure and examines entirely different subjects than the book Sybil and is disappointing especially since body type and upbringing seems to have been replaced with skin tone - which has been established to be a complete non-issue in the show.

The actor doing Carrot doesn't seem to be anything special and the character isn't being used anywhere near effectively as a proxy for the audience to learn about Ankh-Morpork and The (Night) Watch.

Zero problems with Vetinari and Dr. Crucis being genderbent, but neither actors seem to be doing anything with either of the roles.

This version of DEATH is weaksauce bollocks.

n-thing everyone else that thinks that it's a travesty that Colon and Nobby aren't in the show. Although there's supposed to be a version of CMOT Dibbler eventually.
posted by porpoise at 10:37 PM on January 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Although there's supposed to be a version of CMOT Dibbler eventually

Throat's already appeared. She's the young-ish blonde woman who Vimes and Lady Sybil (and Goodboy) confront about the Slab towards the end of this episode.
posted by hanov3r at 8:37 AM on January 12, 2021

I expected to hate it. I didn't hate it! Our collective response to the episode was a giant .... huh. Enough parts worked that we'll watch a second, some of the changes work beautifully, some don't, some are just confusing.

Setting the whole thing in what seems to be magical late 90s Camden Town is both the thing I have the most difficulty with and also kinda works?
posted by feckless at 9:06 PM on January 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Wait, what? I had no idea this existed until this post came up on my RSS feed. I'm a huge fan of Discworld, specifically The Watch, specifically Carrot. Do I want to watch this?
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:27 PM on January 18, 2021

Let's put it this way: I'm enjoying it more than I've enjoyed any of the other televised Discworld media? Possibly because it isn't trying to be a direct screenplay of a novel that wasn't ever written to have been made into a screenplay?

That probably colors expectations. If you just kind of relax to it being vaguely Discworld shaped with broadly familiar characters...

(on the other hand I dunno that Carrot translates / can be translated to a serial presentation well? Especially in the absence of Fred and Nobby, you don't get that lazy cops versus the cop who always does the right thing dynamic, so it tends to end up just Carrot makin' eyes at Angua.)
posted by Kyol at 7:13 PM on January 18, 2021

Do I want to watch this?

Do you need to go out of your way to acquire a viewing? Maybe not worth the bother/ cost.

You have this readily accessible? Go ahead!

Temper expectations.

Carrot mostly looks the part and mostly acts the part, but show doesn't explore the idea that Carrot is "simple" - but not the way that people think that means. Through e04, he's just some background dude and his throwaway intro scene in The Mended Drum was bollocks and very brief. There's a very thin scene in s04 showing he's a decent person in conflict with Angua's instincts, but I don't feel the showrunners actually get the character nor respects it.

Carrot and Angua's bookrelationship/ non-relationship-tension doesn't exist here. It's also rendered anachronistic since Angua doesn't show up until the book ('Men at Arms') after which this show is anchored on ('Guards! Guards!'). In-show, Angua is already part of the Night Watch that Carrot joins, when source material Carrot acclimatizes Angua into the Watch instead.

Show does not acknowledge Carrot's true background, at least as of s04 which implicitly denies that aspect. Show isn't willing/ caring to show Carrot-ness.

Depends on how much you love the overall The Watch story and character development; it's not true to the source material and superficializes much. The non-Vimes character development is non-existent. Not even sure about the show developing Vimes.

If you like bookSybil (as I do), the show challenges those feelings and dares one to complain on pain of non-cosmopolitanism/ racism.
posted by porpoise at 9:52 PM on January 18, 2021

Just a note: there is a post for e4. People may not be up to that episode and be mindful of spoilering them.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:53 AM on January 19, 2021

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