May 23, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Preacher”


PREACHER:  Sunday 9PM on AMC – Potential DVR Alert

It’s not quite clear what on earth AMC’s new PREACHER is after watching its pilot, but it’s certainly intriguing.  Based on a celebrated comic book series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, and widely considered unadaptable after several cycles of development hell over the years, it’s a passion project for the team of Seth Rogen and Ethan Goldberg, who serve as lead Executive Producers, co-series creators (with showrunner Sam Catlin, a longtime Breaking Bad writer/producer), and directors of the pilot.

Despite a 90-minute running time, the pilot only hints at what the show’s story is going to be.  Our main setting appears to be a small dusty town in Texas, where Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) has taken over his father’s pulpit after a violent past, much of it with ex-girlfriend Tulip (Ruth Negga, currently the subject of Oscar talk for the Cannes premiere Loving).  Jesse deals unevenly with his own sins and those of the town, and Tulip’s arrival in town in an attempt to lure him back to crime fits in with that kind of genre tale, as does the presence of single mom Emily (Lucy Griffiths), representing the forces of small-town goodness.  But elsewhere in the world, an extraterrestrial force is causing clergymen (including, hilariously, a certain celebrated representative of Scientology) to spontaneously combust, a force that not only lets Jesse live when it shows up at his church, but appears to leave him with supernatural powers.  And then there’s a young parishioner (Ian Colletti) whose mouth, for reasons not yet explained, resembles an anus (his dialogue is presented with subtitles), and Cassidy (Joe Gilgun), a cheerful Irishman who’s another new arrival in town and who appears to be a vampire.

That’s pretty much all we get in the pilot, and at this point how it all fits together is anybody’s guess, but it’s delivered with enough conviction and style to leave us curious rather than unsatisfied.  Despite the violent excesses of the story (Cassidy’s exit from a mid-air attack by apparent vampire hunters is something to see), Rogen and Goldberg work with more control here than they ever have before (possibly in part because this wasn’t put together as a star vehicle for Rogen, unlike their abortive version of The Green Hornet), regulating their humor with the action and serious character drama so that it all works smoothly.  They and Catlin even make their budget limitations work in their favor, notably when Tulip engages the help of a young brother and sister to make a home-made bazooka, and then brings down a helicopter attack off-screen.  (We only see the results.)  The actors all perform with the kind of commitment to pulp that brings Tarantino films to mind, with Negga an early stand-out.

Preacher, with creative roots in comic books and Breaking Bad, appears to be a strong tonal fit with the AMC brand, capable of filling the Sunday night gap between batches of Fear the Walking Dead episodes, and with considerably more wit than that franchise.  It’s certainly worth sticking around to find out why the men who seem to be on the trail of that extraterrestrial force eat their teabags, and just what the local “Meat & Power” company is all about.  It’s a strong start for cable’s summer TV season.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."