'The Almighty Johnsons,' Season 1 - TV Review

The concept of "The Almighty Johnsons" is fairly simple: a family of brothers in New Zealand are a bunch of re-incarnated and nearly powerless (and fairly minor) Norse Gods. Our main character, Axl Johnson, finds this out (as the others did before him) on his 21st birthday when the older brothers take him into the woods and make him stand in a circle of stones stark naked. He's more than a little skeptical ... until a bolt of lightning hits him. The reason he was naked wasn't religious: the next youngest brother had been really, seriously pissed to have his favourite jacket fried.

Axl turns out to be Odin re-incarnated, which changes everything. The brothers want to find him the reincarnation of Frigg - Odin's wife. Because if Odin connects with her, all of them will get their full powers back. His brother Anders (the reincarnation of Bragi, god of poetry, who can talk any woman into his bed) thinks the best solution is for Axl to sleep with as many women as possible. Axl is exceptionally clueless even given that he's 21, but isn't entirely stupid and is a reasonably decent guy who's not overly keen on Anders' methodology. There's a low key ongoing conflict with a group of re-incarnated goddesses who don't want the return to power because they were always subordinate to the very stupid gods, etc. etc.

The series is fairly lightweight, with a fair bit of sex and plenty of raunchy jokes, and not a great deal of threat. On a purely practical level, it consisted of 10 episodes of about 45 minutes each, and all three seasons are available through Toronto Public Library. Characters are drawn a little broadly, but ... well, they're gods, admittedly with human concerns. And the writing is surprisingly good, interesting and funny and a reasonable representation of the ongoing soap opera that is the mythology of nearly any set of gods.

I was particularly fond of the sixth episode of the first season, in which their oracle leads them to a funeral and eventually to the reincarnation of Thor. It was very funny, and Axl/Odin finally started taking a bit of responsibility and using his powers (such as they are) to do something worthwhile. The 7th and 8th episodes were also quite good. The season ended with several plot threads coming to a head (of course), including a rather good incarnation of Loki. "Good" in the sense that the actor does a marvelous job of playing a charming but nasty god who also happens to be a lawyer. I wasn't crazy about the directions the series was headed, but the writing remains pretty good so I'm likely to carry on to the next season.