HBO can't make everything, damn it.
It's fascinating to me how “Make it a series for HBO!” has become a rallying battle cry for genre nerds everywhere any time there's something that seems hard to figure out as a feature film. And while I'm sure HBO would happily put every single thing ever on the air, that's just not economically possible. They have to choose, and sometimes they don't particularly love having to make those choices because they end up losing material that they would like to make simply because they don't have enough room or time to produce every show.
Michael Lombardo recently expressed excitement about the possibility of doing a “MaddAddam” series with Darren Aronofsky, and in the same interview, he talked about how upsetting it was to lose the rights to “American Gods,” which they tried to develop for a while.
“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 just not going to go through with it.”
How often do you actually hear that? “We love the book, we love the idea, we love the hope of what it could be, we just couldn't get it right.” That's a brutally honest recap of what they went through, and now it looks like Starz is going to take their shot at developing the Neil Gaiman novel as a TV series.
If you're unfamiliar with the book, it tells the story of the various gods and magical creatures that exist because of people's belief in them. As people's faith fades, so do the various gods, even as new ones rise to replace them. When an ex-con finds himself working for Odin, who wants to resurrect the Old Gods, it kicks off a fairly dense and wild ride into the entire history of myth, and it may be the richest overall piece of imagination so far from Gaiman, even more so than “Sandman.”
Today, Starz announced that Bryan Fuller and Michael Green will be writing the pilot, with Gaiman co-executive producing the show with them. Fuller is on fire these days, with “Hannibal” having just wrapped up an amazing series of episodes. I love the ambition of that show, and the way it both plays to television formula and shatters it is impressive.
I don't think anything about “American Gods” is going to be easy to do onscreen, whether that's a big or a small screen. Here's what Gaiman had to say about the project: “When you create something like ‘American Gods,” which attracts fans and obsessives and people who tattoo quotes from it on themselves or each other, and who all, tattooed or not, just care about it deeply, it's really important to pick your team carefully: you don't want to let the fans down, or the people who care and have been casting it online since the dawn of recorded history. What I love most about the team who I trust to take it out to the world, is that they are the same kind of fanatics that “American Gods” has attracted since the start. I haven't actually checked Bryan Fuller or Michael Green for quote tattoos, but I would not be surprised if they have them. The people at Fremantle are the kinds of people who have copies of ‘American Gods' in the bottom of their backpacks after going around the world, and who press them on their friends. And the team at Starz have been quite certain that they wanted to give Shadow, Wednesday and Laura a home since they first heard that the book was out there.I can't wait to see what they do to bring the story to the widest possible audience able to cope with it.”
At this point, passion rules the day in bringing these types of properties to the screen, and you have to go wherever the passion is. If that's Starz, then great. What matters is that Gaiman's found a creative team that makes him feel good about what could happen with “American Gods,” and we may still see this come to life.