Neil Gaiman has made a television development deal with FremantleMedia, the very same company he has worked with on the upcoming American Gods adaptation. In a statement last week, Gaiman said, “I’ve learned to trust them, and to harness their talents and enthusiasm, as they’ve learned to harness mine. They don’t mind that I love creating a ridiculously wide variety of things, and I am glad that even the strangest projects of mine will have a home with them. American Gods is TV nobody has seen before and I can’t wait to announce the specifics behind what we have coming up next.”
A full slate of projects are already reportedly in the works, but what will this bright new future of television look like? How could a number of Gaiman’s projects be adapted for the small screen? Here are a few ways it could easily pan out….
We already know the plans for Good Omens (heading for the BBC any minute now, with Gaiman writing and showrunning the whole thing), and “How to Talk to Girls At Parties” is in the process of becoming a film. Coraline, Stardust, and Neverwhere have already been seen on screens. Gaiman has discussed developing brand new material with Fremantle going forward, so there will be some unforeseeable projects in the mix. But here are the stories that have not been tapped so far, with a few thoughts as to how the could benefit from the televisual medium.
The American Gods television show is rumored to take its inspiration from the eponymous novel, the novella “The Monarch of the Glen,” plus the someday-sequel to the first tome that Gaiman has been patiently hacking away at on and off for some time now. But what about the spin-off novel Anansi Boys, featuring Mr. Nancy’s sons? Orlando Jones recently gave an interview to Vanity Fair indicating that he’s entirely open to (and excited for) the prospect, and that the idea has already been floating around between showrunners and the like. Question is, should the series go beyond the original novel, or simply stick to what’s there? And should the show differ dramatically from American Gods despite being the same universe? After all, Anansi Boys is a lighter book by far, and its scope is smaller. Perhaps the tone of American Gods is best scrapped in favor of something more comedic and dynamic. Going the humor route would be a fun change of pace and set the story apart from its progenitor.
This is easy. Create a show in the tradition of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, but with a fantasy bent. (So kind of like Faerie Tale Theatre, actually. Anyone remember Shelley Duvall’s intros for that beautiful show?) Let Neil Gaiman serve as the narrator of the program, introducing each story one by one. Get really big stars to come in episode by episode, never with the same cast twice. (So I’m talking about Faerie Tale Theatre again. This could work, people.) Maybe have a couple of multi-episode arcs for the longer ones like “Snow, Glass, Apples.” Given Gaiman’s plethora of short fiction, this could be such a treat for years to come. And knowing that the deal with Fremantle makes mention of working with new collaborators, this could be an ideal place to slip in a few stories by other authors! Make it a showcase for the vast array of talent currently writing short fiction in SFF by adapting their work to television. It seems like too good a possibility to pass up.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
This would make a good miniseries event, in all likelihood. Just give it a nice handful of episodes to breathe, but don’t go the full series and extend it too far. It’s also the perfect story for a prestige drama, something odd and beautiful, but told with enough realism that it captures the imaginations of people who don’t normally watch shows with fantasy elements. It could also get scaled down into a film, something with a bit more of that “arthouse chic” attached to it. Give it really gorgeous special effects that play up the surrealism, and you would have stylish television event to reach people who may have never picked up a Gaiman book before.
The Graveyard Book / Odd and the Frost Giants / The Wolves in the Walls / etc….
It would be super fun to have a kid’s series! Just take all of Gaiman’s children’s stories and pick a format. Maybe it could be like Reading Rainbow, with groups of kids reading each of the stories in turn and interacting with the material. You could also create a pretty spectacular animated series using any of these tales, and maybe add songs if you had the right people working on it. Gaiman could host this one as well, if he had the time/inclination. It would be doubly fun to watch him interact with a group of kids who were asking questions about his work.
Obviously, this is the story that fans have been waiting for an adaptation of for years. And Sandman would be much better on television than it ever could be as a series of films; the stories are complex and beautiful enough that they deserve a lengthier treatment. While the story of Sandman stands on its own, the artistic direction of a such a show could really set it apart from everything else out there. Perhaps working with artists, or engaging artist-directors would be the way to go; after Dave McKean’s direction on the Gaiman-penned movie Mirrormask, it would be incredible to see McKean direct certain sections of a Sandman television show—perhaps whenever Delirium is present? Having different Endless tied to different visual cues and art would be a beautiful way to bring the graphic aspects of Sandman to life on screen.
To be perfectly honest, it’s rather surprising that their aren’t a lot of television series in the world devoted to adapting ancient mythical texts. They would be indispensable in classrooms, and if you got incredibly passionate people involved, the dramaturgical aspect of creating shows like that would be a dream come true for some happy history geek. Seeing as Gaiman has already re-adapted Norse myths into a handy tome, it stands to reason that he might enjoy scripting them at some point. Or perhaps he’d like to have a go at a different set of mythology! Either way, it could be an extremely educational and fun to boot. (Maybe redo Beowulf into something a bit more… traditional?)
A Show Set in London Below
Neverwhere technically started out as television serial before Gaiman adapted it into a novel. Given that his next project is set to be a spin-off from the events of Neverwhere, it’s clear that Gaiman has plenty of ideas about what goes on in London Below. Why not make a show about it? The denizens of that magical world have intricate lives full of danger and magic, and it would make for a highly entertaining premise on which to base multiple story arcs and countless characters. You could even structure it somewhat similarly to American Horror Story; each season deals with a different group of characters, a different aspect of the city. It could go on for ages if there were enough stories to tell. London Below doesn’t seem to lack for intrigue.
What would you like to see Gaiman bring to television?