WINTER 2017 TV PREVIEW

THE 'AMERICAN GODS' LIST

Anchored by the success of HBO’s "Game Of Thrones" and Showtime’s "Homeland," Starz has continually found itself out of both the awards and ratings games.  Now its newest project "American Gods" could change the network’s fortunes in both areas. Ahead of the show’s April 30th debut here’s a look at everything you need to know about this potential cable game-changer.

It’s a sprawling serialized epic – and that’s a good thing.

“American Gods” is based on the popular novel by acclaimed author Neil Gaiman. It’s a massive book with numerous characters, huge set pieces and a daunting prospect for anyone to adapt. Yet Gaiman and fellow executive producer Bryan Fuller believe they have figured out a solution. For the show to be a success there’s no half-measure, it needs to embrace the full-tilt nature of the book. The first season, which plays out over eight episodes, is just a taste of the craziness still to come as the plot gets more intricate the deeper you go into the source material.

It has an ensemble headlined by Ian McShane

“American Gods” revolves around the battle between two group of gods; the old (from classic mythology) and the new (from today’s realm). At the center is Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), an ex-con released early from jail following the tragic death of his wife (Emily Browning). While figuring out how he’s going to pick up the pieces of his life, Shadow encounters enigmatic stranger Mr. Wednesday, played by fan favorite Ian McShane. If you haven’t seen the brilliant David Milch HBO drama “Deadwood” then you may not be familiar with McShane – which is unfortunate.

 

If you’ve read the source material it is not hard to see McShane in the role of Mr. Wednesday. His sharp wit, charismatic personality and stone cold exterior personify the character. It also makes him the perfect shepherd for a cast that includes Crispin Glover, Pablo Schreiber, Cloris Leachman, Gillian Anderson, Kristin Chenoweth, Orlando Jones, Dane Cook, Corbin Bernsen and Jeremy Davis among many many others.

The series will expand the "American Gods" universe

In addition to Shadow Moon, Mr. Wednesday and the whole motley crew, the series is also planning to evolve the “American Gods” universe beyond the page. Producers are not only introducing new characters (including Corbin Bernsen’s Vulcan - based on the Roman god of metalworking and volcanoes), but giving established characters more background. For example, while Shadow’s deceased wife Laura plays a large role in the book (despite being dead), in the series viewers will learn more about her time when she’s not interacting with her (one-time) husband.

Starz wasn’t “American Gods” first home

While Starz will ultimately air “American Gods” it was actually HBO that first commissioned the rights back in 2012. At one point Tom Hanks’ Playtone Productions was involved with the adaptation but given how hard it would prove to be to bring it the small screen both HBO and Playtone bowed out. Eventually Freemantle Media snagged the rights in 2014 and Starz came on board bringing “Hannibal’s” Bryan Fuller and “Heroes’” Michael Green into the mix.

Neil Gaiman IS involved

It may seem like a stupid question to ask how (if at all) Gaiman is involved with the project. However given how many adaptations move forward without the involvement of the creator it has been more of a pertinent question as of late. In this case though Gaiman is intimately involved and working with Fuller and Green to ensure his loyal fans are not disappointed.

The series has a strong pedigree

In the world of sci-fi/horror one of the most respected names is Bryan Fuller. Known for his work on “Hannibal”,”Dead Like Me” and “Pushing Daisies,” Fuller feels like the perfect choice for this show as “American Gods” really combines aspects of all three of those series. In addition Fuller is working with Michael Green, who in addition to his work on “Heroes,” wrote Logan and the upcoming “Blade Runner” and “Alien” sequels. Together this is a power combo of a producing team that along with Gaiman seem to be doing everything right thus far.

There will be blood

As if you couldn’t guess from the fact the series revolves around an impending war between two powerful sides the series will feature a lot of violence and blood…to the point it could turn off viewers. However the “American Gods” book has a loyal dedicated following, as do Fuller and Green, so those are likely the people tuning in. For everyone else, just be forewarned this is a dark drama, but one well-worth your time.

Immigration is a theme

“American Gods’” source material is immersive on a number of levels, not the least of which being a series of side-interstitials telling various stories of immigrants around the world. Those popular stories will be included in the series and given the current state of affairs in the world are very timely. The series’ old vs. new gods backstory also ties in nicely to today’s political climate and should draw some interesting parallels for viewers.

The "American Gods" universe is bigger than the book

Originally conceived as six seasons it is anyone’s guess how long the show will run, but there is more to this world than the book. Gaiman also wrote a few follow-up pieces including a spin-off book “Anansi Boys” that could be incorporated into the mix. It has also been long-rumored that Gaiman was working on a true sequel but that has yet to fully materialize. Still, never under-estimate what this team will be able to craft should the show be a breakout hit and Starz keeps ordering more content.

Starz needs this show to be its “Game of Thrones”

HBO remains the king of the premium networks but that’s not going to stop Showtime and Starz from trying to gain ground. “American Gods” represents Starz’s (potentially) last best attempt to make a mark. The network NEEDS this to be its “Game of Thrones” moment. And it just may be.

 

Early reaction to “American Gods” has been positive with both critics and fans very excited by what they’ve seen thus far. Starz proved it was serious about competing in this field in recent months by shifting its original programming to Sundays (after years of experimenting on Friday and Saturday nights), now it just needs the right program to fill the slot.

 

Outlander helped push the network in the right direction, but Starz’s needs more series that have wider appeal and brand recognition. American Gods is a statement series that is coming at just the right time.

All image credit to Starz

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