Neil Gaiman’s American Gods Back In TV Development

Now US cable channel Starz has the rights

American Gods

by James White |
Published on

Leaping from perch to perch like a metaphorical parrot, the attempt to adapt Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods has had trouble sticking the landing. In February this year, rights holders Freemantle Media announced it would attempt to find it somewhere to start over after a planned HBO adaptation fell apart. Now it has done so, landing on US cable network Starz.

The channel, which has brought the world the likes of Spartacus: Blood And Sand and Strike Back, is now in development on a pilot to be written by Bryan Fuller (who is also busy with the TV version of Hannibal) and Heroes’ Michael Green.

"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,” says Gaiman in a statement.

“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. I can't wait to see what they do to bring the story to the widest possible audience able to cope with it."

The previous attempt to turn the book into something for screens was in 2011, when Gaiman hinted that someone had the rights and was developing it. Then, a month later, the news broke that HBO and Tom Hanks’ Playtone company had snagged the option, with Gaiman at work on a pilot script, only for the channel to decide it couldn't crack the script. Despite its reputation for shows that emphasise sex and violence, Starz seems like a more flexible, natural home for Gaiman’s work than if it ended up at one of the mainstream networks.

Gaiman's novel, first published in 2001, and again in an expanded edition in 2005, involves old gods and mythological creatures from various Old World pantheons (Low Key Lyesmith, Mr. Nancy, Mr. Jacquel), brought to the US along with the immigrants who founded it. But their powers are waning as people's beliefs shift to modern worships like media and technology. When our hero, Shadow, is released from prison, he is hired by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday and travels on an odyssey across America recruiting old gods for a war against the new.

During the journey, Shadow learns some interesting facts about his heritage, and faces down a child-killer. Characters from Sandman crop up occasionally, and the whole thing feels like a tour through forgotten corners of Americana as well as the mythology of, well, the entire world. The novel's companion piece, Anansi Boys, came out in 2005, and a follow-up story, Monarch Of The Glen, is in Gaiman's Fragile Things collection.

Fuller and Green will be whipping up a pilot for the show, but there’s no guarantee – as with previous versions – it’ll make it to series. Fans should pray to gods both old and new that it makes the grade.

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