Title: American Gods
Starring: Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, Pablo Schreiber, Crispin Glover, Orlando Jones, Gillian Anderson
Released: July 31st, 2017
Runtime: 8 x 60mins
Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (2017) finally makes it to the small screen as an 8 part series. Well that’s season one at least and apparently they’ve only used the first 100 pages as source material. That leaves about 500 + pages, so we might yet get a further 5 seasons. Great news if season one is anything to go by.
Anyone who has read anything by Neil Gaiman knows how talented a writer he is and how interesting his stories are. Neverwhere, which was also made into a TV series (BBC three part mini series), was excellent even if it looks a little bit aged today. But American Gods is very much 2017 TV inspired by the likes of Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad type TV - it’s full of both style and substance.
Shadow Moon has just a few days until the end of his prison sentence when he hears the life-altering news that his wife Laura (Emily Browning) has died. Worse still that she was having an affair with his best friend. On the plane ride home be meets Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) who offers him a job as his body guard. Shadow doesn’t know it yet but he is about to enter a world where Gods - old and new - are very real. It takes him a while to accept his new reality and the fact that his dead wife (Emily Browning) keeps talking to him and is apparently not quite dead. Magic, folklore, history and fantasy are all part of the mix.
Bryan Fuller and Michael Greene adapted the story with the help of Gaiman himself to create a slightly altered, elaborated version of the story. Newcomers will be delighted by the intriguing storyline whilst anyone who has read the book will enjoy the familiar elements as well as deepened storylines and characterisations as well as new twists.
But that does bring us to the one issue that I have with the show. It expands characters and adds new scenes that were not in the book - this in itself is to be expected when adapting a book to a screenplay and in expanding the story to probably 40 - 50 hours of TV. But in adapting the story even slightly, changing characters even slightly motivations also change and that’s where things can come unstuck.
I love Neil Gaiman’s imaginative and captivating writing and it’s a shame that his original story was not fully preserved on screen. As a producer and co-writer of this adaption why would he allow his excellent charactersandtheir motivations to be changed at all? Especially when these changes, however small and seemingly insignificant, result in the characters not really making sense anymore. For example Shadow was not originally written as a career criminal so this change makes his character less likeable or relatable. Shadow and Laura’s relationship has also changed from book to screen - also making their relationship less believable and changing their motivations. All of this aside American Gods still retains a unique Gaiman-esque feel of a fantasy world that co-exists parallel to the real world, with interactions taking place across both worlds affecting either or both at the same time.
The acting, direction and cinematography are all very impressive, in fact at times it is truly spectacular - fitting of the subject material. The supporting cast of Gillian Anderson, Peter Stomare, Pablo Schreiber, Crispin Glover Yetide Badaki and Orlando Jones are all excellent and very much the embodiment of their characters. It’s an amazing ensemble cast who do justice to the story.
San Diego Comic-Con Panel Footage
Showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Greene are joined by Bruce Langley, Yetide Badaki, Pablo Schreiber, Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane and Neil Gaiman at a San Diego Comic-Con panel to celebrate the series.
Ian McShane Interview
The legendary Ian McShane talks candidly about American Gods, Mr Wednesday and the freedoms a show like American Gods gains by not being on network television.
Ricky Whittle & Emily Browning Interview
Your new favourite dysfunctional married couple, Shadow and Laura Moon, discuss their unique dynamic and what it means to them to be part of American Gods.
American Gods Origins with Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman returns to Reykjavik to reminisce about how the city fuelled his fascination for Norse folklore, which in turn led to the creation of American Gods.
Bruce Langley Interview
Technical Boy Bruce Langley talks about the most unpredictable of the New Gods.
Ian McShane & Ricky Whittle Interview
Having been thrust straight into the pantheon of great double acts, the men behind Shadow Moon and Mr Wednesday discuss bringing the characters to life.
Book Vs Show
The defining question when it comes to adaptations, this featurette examines what fans of the book will get from the series and vice versa.
A look at the New Gods of American Gods, including Media (Gillian Anderson), Mr World (Crispin Glover) and Technical Boy (Bruce Langley).
Learn about the cultural roots of the Old Gods seen in the series, from fertility god Bilquis through to the deathly horror of Czernobog and, of course, the enigmatic Wednesday.
What is American Gods?
Exclusive insight into the most exciting television event of the year from the cast and crew.