Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Next Big Thing on TV

      If you're not excited for the TV adaptation of American Gods you should be. Written by the master of modern fantasy, Neil Gaiman, American Gods is described in the official press release thusly: "The plot posits a war brewing between old and new gods: the traditional gods of biblical and mythological roots from around the world steadily losing believers to an upstart pantheon of gods reflecting society’s modern love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs.  Its protagonist, Shadow Moon, is an ex-con who becomes bodyguard and traveling partner to Mr. Wednesday, a conman but in reality one of the older gods, on a cross-country mission to gather his forces in preparation to battle the new deities." 

          Intrigued yet?
       This just longs to be adapted for television. Notice I said television, NOT a movie. The content of this novel is just too rich, too dense and too thorough to be dealt with in two hours. 
       HBO had attempted to do an adaptation before but it proved too difficult to adapt. But Starz has found the right mix of creators to take it on. Michael Green (Heroes, the sincerely underrated Kings and the likewise under-appreciated 2011 show, The River) and Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Dead Like Me, and one of my personal favorites Pushing Daisies) are finally realizing Neil Gaiman's ambitious vision. Gaiman will also serve as Producer for the show. There are many reasons this is the perfect trio to get this done. Most importantly, these three know how to deal with a mythology. One of the best parts of Heroes was its thorough and complex mythology. It did a good job dealing with complicated characters and their back stories. Fuller is no stranger to dealing with mythologies as Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls and Hannibal all had intense mythologies.
       The most shocking part about this announcement is when you step back and realize that the best Neil Gaiman stories have yet to be adapted. His stories have found some success on the screen, both small and big. Coraline was a reasonably successful adaptation, mostly for its unique aesthetics. Stardust was also fairly successful, however it was not my favorite. Gaiman's Neverwhere was a short lived television series that he later adapted into a novel (kind of reverse adaptation). Gaiman's best works have widely been considered too complex to adapt, and for good reason. Sandman is perhaps the best comic book ever written (though an adaptation was announced featuring Joseph Gordon Levitt, I'll believe it when I see it). Anansi Boys, a spiritual sequel to American Gods, is just as rich as Sandman and its predecessor, and may figure into the American Gods adaptation as well as possibly finding a home on the BBC. And finally, of course, American Gods, arguably Gaiman's magnum opus, hasn't been adapted until now. 
       Perhaps the most exciting bit of news is arguably the most obvious: Neil Gaiman's involvement. No one is saying he's writing the episodes, directing the episodes or completely involved in the series at all. But the fact that he's a Producer means at least, if nothing else,  it's being done with his approval. The fact that he's involved in any capacity makes me extremely hopeful that it will be done right. We've seen too many adaptations of great material get ruined by inept writers and directors. With Gaiman being involved, I'm sure that he'll get it done right. Even without Gaiman, Fuller and Greene are more than capable of making this show a winner. I can't wait to hear casting announcements for the show; I would love to see Lee Pace (of Fuller's Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls) in just about any role.

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