I’m a big fan of Gaiman’s 2001 dark fantasy novel. In fact, out of all of his books, it may be my favourite. So a few years ago when I heard that HBO was in talks to develop a television show I was nervous but excited. Nervous because it’s an extremely complex book with a pretty out-there story I wasn’t convinced would translate that well to television, but excited because if they did get it right it would be fantastic. And I am nothing if not a television adaptation optimist.
Early reports of the show seemed promising. Gaiman reported back to fans that the book would make up the first two seasons of the show and that he was planning on having the sequel ready to coincide with the premiere. Production was to be handled by the studio who brought us Band of Brothers and John Adams and the budget for each season was in the $40 million range.
But seven months ago Gaiman announced on Reddit that HBO would no longer be pursuing the project:
“There is an American Gods TV series in the works. It’s no longer with HBO. The moment that things are ready to be announced I am sure they will be, either legitimately or via a leak in a big Hollywood Agency mailroom.”
I was disappointed, but according to Michael Lombardo, HBO president of programming, reasons for dropping the option was because they just couldn’t get the script right and they hadn’t wanted to produce a subpar show.
“I think we’re all huge fans of the book, and I think the script just didn’t — we couldn’t craft the script as good as we needed it to be. I think we knew going in that it would be a challenge; every good book is a challenge to adapt it and find the level you need for it. The bar is high now for great dramas. And to find that bar — we tried. So it was a huge disappointment […] We tried three different writers, we put a lot of effort into it. Some things just don’t happen. We have to trust at the end of the day, if you don’t have a star with a great script, you’re just not going to go through with it.”
I can both accept and respect those reasons. I would rather no show than a bad show and I imagine most fans feel the same. It was a wise decision on the part of HBO to drop the project and give someone else a chance at it.
And as of this past Tuesday we know who that “someone else” is!
Starz has picked up the rights to the American Gods television adaption and Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies) and Michael Green (Heroes) are attached as showrunners. And it seems Gaiman will be more involved, both as an executive producer and with the script of the pilot.
If I thought I was excited before, it was nothing compared to how I felt when I saw Bryan Fuller’s name in the announcement. Fuller is the man behind the brilliant shows Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies and NBC’s Hannibal (which I would argue is one of the best shows on television right now). He has experience telling darker but fantastical stories and the cinematography in his shows is always breath-taking. He’s an excellent fit. When asked about the project, he had this to say:
“Neil Gaiman has created the holiest of holy toy boxes with ‘American Gods’ and filled it with all manner of magical thing, born of new gods and old . . . Michael Green and I are thrilled to crack this toy box wide open and unleash the fantastical titans of heaven and earth and Neil’s vividly prolific imagination.”
Starz is also the network behind The White Queen and Outlander – two other book-to-tv projects with large fanbases.
I hope this team is able to follow through and bring the best possible representation of the American Gods mythology off the page and onto our television screens.