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American Gods comes to American TV

 

Neil Gaiman is about as ubiquitous as a modern fantasy writer can be. He's written comic books, and an impressive stack of novels for kids, teens and grown-ups alike. Then there are his screenplays: he wrote the scripts for the film adaptations of Stardust and Coraline, adapted Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke into English and penned a recent episode of Doctor Who. A few months ago, Gaiman announced that Good Omens, his collaboration with Terry Pratchett, was to be turned into a 4-part miniseries in the UK.

But now it looks like Gaiman is expanding into television stateside. Last week, HBO picked up the pitch for a TV series based on his novel, American Gods. Tom Hanks' Playtone Productions is set to produce it, with Gaiman himself as a head writer. And apparently HBO was ecstatic about the source material, because the premium cable channel went ahead and ordered six seasons.

They'll be short seasons, with a dozen episodes per year, at most. But six is the number of seasons Lost had. And The L Word. Why so optimistic, HBO?

Perhaps they are encouraged by the built-in fanbase that comes with adapting a beloved book series to the screen. Or maybe it's the sell-able premise. The show depicts a power struggle between the Old Gods (of Norse, Celtic, African and other traditions) and new, technology-based gods. As the latter gain influence, the former's powers wane. American Gods is just the kind of sexy, character-driven fantasy drama HBO -- and its fans -- seem to love right now (see True Blood, Game of Thrones).

Writing at Gaiman's side as co-writer is Robert Richardson, who's won two Academy Awards for his cinematography and is currently hard at work on an adaptation of World War Z. Other than that, there have been few announcements about who else will be on board.

How they plan to stretch the series out into more than sixty episodes is yet to be revealed. American Gods is 624 pages, and has yet to spawn a sequel. But it may soon. In a June 21 talk at the 92nd Street Y, Gaiman announced that season one would likely encompass the events of the novel, which promises new story in the future. Meanwhile, he plans on writing a few more short stories about Gods main character Shadow, at which point he will work on a sequel.

But Gaiman himself is writing, so the long-time fans can expect faithfulness to the source material. Or well-executed infidelity, as might be the case, since there will clearly need to be new plots and subplots added to beef the story up.

But that's far down the road, as the series is not planned to air until 2013 at the earliest. In the mean time, maybe he'll release a sequel or two.

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