Why Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ Didn’t Work Out at HBO
“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.”
That’s the explanation Michael Lombardo, HBO’s president of programming, gave Vulture when asked why the cable channel stopped working on an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel American Gods.
“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,” Lombardo said. “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 start with a great script, you’re just not going to go through with it.”
HBO picked up the rights to the fantasy novel in April 2011, with Playtone Productions partner Gary Goetzman touting a six-season, big-budget run. However, by November 2013, the cable channel had given up on the project, making way for FreemantleMedia to pick up the television rights earlier this year.
The author’s fourth novel, American Gods is built on the premise that deities and figures of myth and folklore exist only because people believe in them. It follows an ex-convict named Shadow who, upon early release from prison after his wife is killed in a car crash, is hired to be the bodyguard of a mysterious con man named Wednesday. However, it’s soon revealed that Wednesday is an incarnation of All-Father Odin, who’s traveling America recruiting his fellow forgotten deities to wage an epic battle against the new American gods — manifestations of modern life and technology, like Internet, media and credit cards.