Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sandman as a TV series?

I imagine the first thing to go in the TV series would be the freaky eyes. I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic series.  Ostensibly the series is about Dream of the Endless, one of seven immortal beings who embody the basic concepts of the universe.  In reality though, the series was more of a meditation on the nature of storytelling itself.  It is definitely a series that grew beyond its initial premise and it showed me how much potential comic books have as a medium.

Since Sandman is both popular and critically acclaimed, it is not surprising that there has been talk of adapting it to another medium.  Several movie screenplays have been written, but so far all attempts to bring it to the silver screen have failed. 

Currently Warner Brothers Television is in talks with Eric Kripke, creator of the Supernatural TV series, to bring the series to the small screen

I will admit I have my concerns about this for several reasons.

The special effects budget would be murder

The Dreaming is a strange and wondrous locale.  Its inhabitants are rarely human in appearance.  Objects are often animate and prone to change without warning.  Non-sequiturs are common.

In effect, every appearance of the Dreaming should seem like you are walking through an actual dream. Doing it correctly would require a special effects budget beyond that of a TV show.

The only alternative would be to either tone down or limit the appearances of the Dreaming.  I believe either choice would be detrimental to the show.

Sandman has a huge cast

TV shows traditionally have relatively small reoccurring cast members who are guaranteed a certain number of episodes per season.  Sandman has a huge reoccurring cast, but their appearances are often infrequent.  Even Dream himself has been known to skip out on the majority of a storyline.

Oddly, the only TV show I can think of with a large but infrequently appearing reoccurring cast is The Simpsons.  Of course The Simpsons has the advantage that it maintains a relatively small stable of voice actors who can play a wide range of characters.  A live action TV show would not have that advantage.

What is Sandman anyway?

Sandman is a dark supernatural drama.  Or maybe it is anthology series?  Perhaps it is a family drama with a twist?

One of the wonderful things about the Sandman comic series is that it really was whatever Neil Gaiman wanted it to be when he was writing it that month.  He used it as a launchpad to tell the kind of stories he wanted to tell.  What was amazing is that he managed to do this and still make it into something that formed a coherent whole when he was done.

I think this would be even harder to pull off in a TV series.  I remember reading that Paramount nixed having the sixth season of Deep Space Nine occur off the station for fear that a casual viewer would tune in and become confused. 

I can only imagine what the network would think of a show where one episode might have a serial killer convention while the next featured the dreams of cats.

Final Thoughts

I do wish Eric Kripke the best of luck if he decides to adapt Sandman to television.  I love the comic series and hope he can manage to capture some of that magic to share it with a wider audience.

I just think the road before him is a difficult one.


Scafloc said...

Personally, I think you were on to something when you referenced the Simpsons... Sandman could potentially do quite well as an animated feature. In fact, I see no reason why it might not succeed as a "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" style mixed piece either, with the dreaming fully animated (possibly excepting the endless). It might be interesting to see each of the endless done in different style; perhaps Delerium could be very cartoony, while Desire could be done japanese style, and Death with the hyper-realistic CG you sometimes get now. Dream himself would likely need to be a real boy, even in the dreaming, and would obviously need an excellent actor to pull it off.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I agree that it will be a challenge, but I see some possibilities.

Medraut said...

@Scafloc - I thought about Sandman working well as an animated show as well. After all, in Japan many long running Manga are turned into animated television shows.

Its a shame that in America that animation is rarely taken serious or relegated to children's entertainment.