For a while it looked like we'd finally see American Gods on HBO, then the network lost it. So what went wrong?
Ever since it was first published to bestsellerdom and massive critical acclaim in 2001, Neil Gaiman's sprawling mythic fantasy novel has seemed ripe for adaptation, and in 2011, HBO seemed poised to finally make that happen. The network launched the development of the series under Tom Hanks' production company, Playtone, Gaiman seemed excited about it, and fans of the novel were itching for news as to who might sign on to play their favorite characters.
Two years went by, and things stayed relatively quiet on the American Gods TV news front, until Gaiman announced last fall that, while the show was still being developed, it was no longer in HBO's hands. Then, in February, FremantleMedia announced that they had picked up the American Gods TV option and were continuing to develop it. The series hasn't nailed down a new network yet (that we know of), but we do know that HBO's been out of the American Gods loop for some time now. It's a shame, because the network's now gotten a proven track record with hit genre series, but these are the perils of development hell.
So why did HBO lose the American Gods option in the first place? Speaking with Vulture, HBO president of programming Michael Lombardo called it a simple case of never being able to quite nail the script.
"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," Lombardo said. "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."
So it looks like HBO simply decided they'd rather have no American Gods series than one they didn't think was up to snuff, and given the massive undertaking the show would likely have been from a financial and logistical standpoint, that makes sense. Now we're stuck waiting for more news on the show's future to emerge, perhaps still a little frustrated that it won't be on HBO.