Starz developing Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods”

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Starz developing Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods”

Less than a month ago we heard the reasons why HBO lost the rights to make an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. On the heels of that, the latest word is that Starz, in partnership with FremantleMedia North America, has taken up the torch, and is the newest network to tackle what promises to be a challenging show, with Bryan Fuller and Michael Green writing and showrunning the project.

Fans hopeful for another epic HBO series were disappointed at hearing they had lost the rights to American Gods earlier this year. According to an interview with The Vulture, HBO’s president of programming Michael Lombardo says creating the script was the major issue.

The bar is high now for great dramas. And to find that bar — we tried…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.

Then on July first we had the first press release from Starz, announcing a script to series development of FremantleMedia’s adaptation of the book.

Neil Gaiman, at least, seems to be happy with the new team.

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.

Bryan Fuller seems to be as excited as Gaiman. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were tattoos.

Neil Gaiman has created the holiest of holy toy boxes with American Gods and filled it with all manner of magical thing, born of new gods and old. Michael Green and I are thrilled to crack this toy box wide open and unleash the fantastical titans of heaven and earth and Neil’s vividly prolific imagination.

Seeing how well HBO has handled Game of Thrones, it was a letdown when they lost the rights to Fremantle, but I like that someone somewhere recognized that it needs to be done right, or not at all. (The original article makes it sound like it was HBO’s decision, but I always wonder if Gaiman didn’t like the direction it was going.)

Personally, I’m hopeful for the series. Starz certainly has a good track record with series like Spartacus and Black Sails. And while Torchwood: Miracle Day wasn’t nearly as good as the first three Torchwood series, it was still fun (though “fun” = “terribly depressing” when you’re discussing Torchwood, but I still “enjoyed” it.)

With Hannibal, Pushing Daisies, and Mockingbird Lane under his belt, Bryan Fuller has gained a good reputation for interesting story lines and clever dialog. (I still think Wonderfalls is a little overrated, but that’s just me.) I’m hoping he can handle the convoluted plot and subtext of Gaiman’s battle between gods.

I haven’t followed Michael Green’s career as closely, though I know he was nominated for an Emmy for his work on Heroes. (I’m trying not to hold the 2011 Green Lantern against him.)

Mostly I’m hoping Gaiman has a heavy hand in all of this. As one of six executive producers (along with Thom Beers, Craig Cegielski, Stefanie Berk, Bryan Fuller, and Michael Green) that sounds like a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but that’s how it is with any series. If he maintains creative control I think it’ll be worthy of the book. If he has to make too many compromises, well, the sex and violence in the book will probably come out on top. What with Egyptian gods in funeral homes, child sacrifices, succubi, and people dying on trees, there’s plenty of that to go around. It’s just not the point of the book, and the right writer and director will hopefully see that.