Gaiman’s American Gods Set to Become HBO’s Next Genre Series

Can you imagine Neil Gaiman’s American Gods as a six-season HBO series?

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Tom Hanks and Playtone Productions is set to begin adapting Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods into an episodic drama stretched over six seasons on HBO, with a possible debut in 2013. Playtone’s plans are amibitious:

…each season will be of 10-12, hour-long episodes with a budget of around $35-40 million per season, targeted to debut on the cable powerhouse in 2013 at the earliest.

The series will play with the novel’s central question: Are you a god if no one believes in you? And while that theme, and the book’s myriad cast of secondary and tertiary gods, could certainly fill six seasons worth of television, it still begs the question of how one book, a short story, and a spin-off novel can fill so much space.

Gaiman, who is on board as an executive producer and writer for the series, has revealed that the series has not been constructed to cover only American Gods. For starters, it will also encompass its sequel, which he now has to start writing. Via the author’s Twitter:

And for those asking, No, 6 years of AMERICAN GODS on TV doesn’t mean just the 1st book. It means I need to write the 2nd now, for a start.

This news comes on the heels of the 10th anniversary rerelease of American Gods, which hits shelves on June 21st and features 20,000 extra words of story, essays, and more.

For those unfamiliar, American Gods is the story of Shadow, a man recently released from prison, who encounters an enigmatic con artist by the name of Wednesday. As the story unfolds it becomes more and more apparent that the gods and concepts we worship are still present in our world, in one form or another, and that Shadow has become a key pawn in their machinations.

This news could come as a disappointment to Gaiman fans eager for an HBO adaptation of the epic Sandman comic series, although considering the planned length of HBO’s American Gods and the mention of a second book, fans could very well be seeing the beginning of a new long-running epic from the writer.

The idea of an American Gods series joining HBO’s line-up gives an interesting color to the state of genre television, as well. Come 2013, HBO could possibly be featuring three different genre programs: Game of Thrones, True Blood, and American Gods. In terms of pure conjecture: this could be in addition to The Walking Dead on AMC, Doctor Who on BBC America, and possibly Camelot and a fifth series of Torchwood on Starz.

If even half of the above comes about, genre television could be seen as a safe harbor for premium cable content in a way that network channels seem to have abandoned. It’ll be intriguing to see how the next two years of television unfolds.

One certainly gets the sense that the world of American Gods hoards a near-endless amount of gods’ tales. Perhaps the television series will be structured like the book, with vignettes from other gods giving us a breather from the main story? Will the TV series expand on the “new” gods that the book only (terrifyingly) hinted at? Will Shadow seek out other, well…that would be spoiling the book. Will Anansi Boys be incorporated into the show? The possibilities are exciting to consider.

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