Multiple film projects based on celebrated author/screenwriter Neil Gaiman's fantasy literature are currently in the works, including the long-awaited adaptation of his Sandman DC/Vertigo graphic novel series - with Joseph Gordon-Levitt leading the charge - and a movie based on his lauded Jungle Book-inspired children's novel, The Graveyard Book. But what of HBO's American Gods TV series (based on Gaiman's fantasy book), first announced some three years ago?
Well, there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that the American Gods TV show is no longer destined for a home at HBO. Good news is, the rights have been acquired by a different production house than Tom Hanks' Playtone banner, with the intention of moving the series forward - now that it's spent a couple of years spinning its wheels in place, that is.
Deadline is reporting that FremantleMedia has picked up the American Gods TV series rights, with Gaiman still onboard as an executive producer for the project. It was Gaiman who, three years ago, revealed that his 2001 book - a best-seller that secured the Hugo, Nebula and Bram Stoker awards for Best Novel - was being envisioned as a movie production fit for a theatrical release, not that long before the story broke that HBO was adapting it as a show instead; he's been personally involved with bringing American Gods to the small screen ever since then.
American Gods, for those unfamiliar, tells the story of Shadow, a convict fresh out of prison who agrees to become the body guard to a man called Mr. Wednesday. The latter, it turns out, is one of the old gods, who is traveling across the U.S. to rally his allies and hopefully lead them to victory in an end-all battle with the gods of the modern age (i.e. media, technology, drugs, etc.). Thematically, American Gods shares much in common with The Sandman, by examining the general cultural transition from ancient to contemporary belief systems through a story that is often darkly surreal, yet at the same time quite personal.
The initial reports that HBO has fully signed off on a six-season plan for the American God series turned out to be false; last year, Gaiman updated the situation, revealing that he'd written multiple script drafts for the pilot episode and that his inclusion of new story material - Gaiman admitted it was his attempt to give the books' fans "stuff where they don't know what's going to happen" - had contributed to the show's lack of progress.
In a new blog post, Gaiman elaborated on the current situation with American Gods:
A few people have asked for more background on this: HBO had an option on American Gods for several years. It went through three different pilot scripts. HBO has a limited number of slots and, after a while, passed it to Cinemax, who are in the HBO family, who decided eventually they didn't want to do it, and the option expired, which unfortunately meant we couldn't work with Tom Hanks' production company Playtone any longer, as they are exclusive to HBO. However, Stefanie Berk, who had been one of the brightest stars at Playtone, had recently moved to Freemantle, and was as determined as she had been when she was at Playtone to bring American Gods to the screen. And I was impressed by her determination.
Under HBO's wing, American Gods would've likely been a fairly adult series with solid production values, but there's no reason why another premium cable network wouldn't be interested in making such a show, especially in this day and age of TV entertainment. Hopefully, the project will land a new home sooner rather than later, so we can all start making plans to add yet another sophisticated piece of small screen entertainment to our already jam-packed list of programs to watch in the future.
We'll keep you posted on American God's status.