American Gods, one of the most fervently beloved titles in the bibliography of the fervently beloved Neil Gaiman, has been mooted as a prospective show for American gods (of TV) HBO for the past three years but has struggled through the development stages, the network asking Gaiman to rewrite his pilot script to bring it closer to the book amidst rumours either pegging it as picked up for a six season run or with its chances damaged by the massive success of fellow cult-book-to-small-screen-hit Game of Thrones. Gaiman eventually confirmed last November that the network was no longer involved.
Finally, however, fans can expect some progress on this front: HBO may no longer be interested in taking the project further, but it has instead been picked up by fellow premium cable network Starz, with Hannibal‘s Bryan Fuller appointed to write the pilot and Kings creator Michael Green showrunner. Gaiman will executive produce.
The book follows the ongoing battle between the ‘Old Gods’ of ancient cultures and the New Gods of America shaped by the dominant forces of contemporary life: the stock market, the internet,
Kanye West, television (irony!). As recently as last year, Gaiman said that the events of the book would only take up the first two seasons of the show, but it’s unclear whether this will still be the case now that the project has moved on from HBO.
Not to completely tamp down the fannish frenzy no doubt currently ensuing, but there are a couple of factors at play here that should at least give Gaiman acolytes pause. Firstly, there’s the reason given just last month by HBO’s president of programming Michael Lombardo for its eventual dropping of American Gods: ‘we couldn’t craft the script as good as we needed it to be. […] 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.’ So already the show has the ‘it’s not HBO, it’s television’ stink around it.
Secondly, ‘not quite good enough for HBO’ has largely been Starz’ stock in trade thus far with its original programming, with its most successful venture to date its Spartacus which, whilst hugely popular, was a little more shameless than the more prestigious HBO titles about its status as a sex and violence delivery mechanism. There are reasons to be optimistic, however: Starz has also ordered a series of Steven Soderbergh’s very good 2009 film The Girlfriend Experience, and later this summer will premiere its adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels from Battlestar Galactica man Ronald D. Moore, suggesting it’s ready to square up to its bigger rivals. Gaiman fans will no doubt be hoping that that is, in fact, the case, and that this isn’t just misplaced confidence.