Playtone Promises Six-Season Adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS on HBO in 2013

     June 11, 2011


HBO started kicking the tires of Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods back in April as a possible series to be produced by Playtone’s Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, with Gaiman on board as writer and executive producer.  Goetzman revealed details this weekend to THR: Playtone is planning six season of 10-12 hourlong episodes with a budget of $35-40 million each season.  American Gods will premiere in 2013 at the earliest.

That’s a lot of money for a weekly series — minimally $3 million per episode, more than most broadcast shows.  Playtone is used to the Daddy Warbucks treatment from HBO — the network reportedly budgeted The Pacific around $225 million (over $20 million per hour).  But Goetzman promises they’ll put the money to good use:

“There are some crazy things in [American Gods]. We’ll probably be doing more effects in there than it’s been done on a television series.”

Hit the jump for a synopsis of the crazy things in Gaiman’s novel after the break.


Titans clash, but with more fuss than fury in this fantasy demi-epic from the author of Neverwhere. The intriguing premise of Gaiman’s tale is that the gods of European yore, who came to North America with their immigrant believers, are squaring off for a rumble with new indigenous deities: “gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon.” They all walk around in mufti, disguised as ordinary people, which causes no end of trouble for 32-year-old protagonist Shadow Moon, who can’t turn around without bumping into a minor divinity. Released from prison the day after his beloved wife dies in a car accident, Shadow takes a job as emissary for Mr. Wednesday, avatar of the Norse god Grimnir, unaware that his boss’s recruiting trip across the American heartland will subject him to repeat visits from the reanimated corpse of his dead wife and brutal roughing up by the goons of Wednesday’s adversary, Mr. World.

At last Shadow must reevaluate his own deeply held beliefs in order to determine his crucial role in the final showdown. Gaiman tries to keep the magical and the mundane evenly balanced, but he is clearly more interested in the activities of his human protagonists: Shadow’s poignant personal moments and the tale’s affectionate slices of smalltown life are much better developed than the aimless plot, which bounces Shadow from one episodic encounter to another in a design only the gods seem to know. Mere mortal readers will enjoy the tale’s wit, but puzzle over its strained mythopoeia. [Amazon]

The listing has American Gods at 624 pages.  Under a six-season plan, that’s about 8-11 pages per episode, which totals up to Not Enough Material.  (I am not familiar enough with either property to know if the spinoff novel Anansi Boys can be folded into the story.)  Given that Gaiman is on as a writer (presumably the head writer), I hope we see all the ideas tossed around in his head and in his notes during and since writing American Gods.  Clearly I need to go read the book, though I have a couple years to beat the series premiere.

Speaking of which, I may be cynical, but I believe it is folly to announce a six-season plan so early, even on HBO.  Fellow HBO series Carnivàle also had six seasons in mind, yet was cancelled after two.