The joys of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels have not (to this reviewer's eyes anyway) made it to the small screen. Pratchett's brilliant satire, word play and all round silliness sing on the page... and all went out of the window with The Colour Of Magic in favour of yet another payday for David Jason. He was hideously cast as Rincewind, charm was nowhere to be seen and the tale — admittedly an early Pratchett and not his best work by a long chalk — unrolled in several hours of depressing pap.
Accordingly, instead of being thrilled that they've had another stab with a later novel, the news that 2004's Going Postal had been adapted for TV met with something considerably less than enthusiasm. Going Postal is a work of genius. Fact. The tale of a conman, Moist von Lipwig, who's given the choice of sorting out Ankh-Morpork's struggling postal service or being hanged, is possibly Pratchett's funniest book. In the course of 352 pages, he lances society, the joys of office politics, customer service, the Post Office while working in a pleasing romance, thrills aplenty and the inadvertent launch of philately as a hobby. It's smart, laugh-out-loud funny and sweet.
Happily, while much of the nuance has dropped off on the way to the small screen, this adaptation is a bit of a peach. Richard Coyle is perfect as the criminal turned unwitting postmaster, who discovers that all his predecessors have died in office. Moist's attempts to develop an exit strategy do not run smooth. There's his budding romance with pro-Golem righs activist Adora (Foy), the success of the stamp system, his own Golem probation officer and, of course, the perfectly cast Charles Dance as the always-14-steps-ahead Lord Vetinari.
Support work is excellent, as you'd expect from a cast that includes Tamsin Greig, Timothy West, Steve Pemberton and David Suchet. Direction is efficient and shows a love and understanding for the source material while the screenplay keeps many of Pratchett's best gags intact. If anyone else is intending to adapt Pratchett for TV audiences (and they probably are), this is the way to do it.
EXTRAS ★★★★ An introduction from Terry Pratchett (4 minutes); a commentary from director Jon Jones, which you can enjoy as simply an audio commentary, or as picture-in-picture during the film; a series of interviews with Pratchett, Jones and producer Sue De Beauvoir, members of the cast and crew, and fans who appear in the film as extras; six deleted scenes; a four-minute gag reel; and an image gallery.