The HBO version of Neil Gaiman's American Gods isn't happening after all, but the project wasn't dropped for the usual budgetary or contractual reasons.
The channel’s proven track record of genre shows like Game Of Thrones, True Blood, and the upcoming The Leftovers would give any fan of Gaiman’s beloved novel hope of a faithful adaptation. Unfortunately, that will no longer be happening as HBO have passed on the rights to the book. The property had been floating around at the channel for some years now but it was finally axed just recently.
In an interview conducted over at Vulture, HBO executive Michael Lombardo discussed why the series was eventually dropped:
“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’re just not going to go through with it…Even though we love the book, we love the idea, we love the hope of what it could be, we just couldn’t get it right.”
This is further testament to HBO’s dedication to craft, and the unique position they are in to develop consistently strong, interesting content. Rather than go ahead with a series they felt couldn’t reach their expected level of quality, they opted to drop it all together. It’s a shame, but weigh the options: Would you have rather seen Gaiman’s novel adapted for the small-screen in an unremarkable fashion or count your blessings it didn’t exist at all? Think of all the other properties (Video games, novels, television series) you wish were never adapted into another medium. Imagine if an exec behind The Last Airbender, for example, killed production on the basis that they weren’t doing justice to the source material?
American Gods now has a second chance to be adapted for television over at FremantleMedia. Originally the project had been optioned by HBO, but FremantleMedia acquired the rights after HBO let the property go. At the very least, some other channel has a chance to do the series in a faithful, ambitious, and satisfying way.
Images: HBO, William Morrow, Headline