Neil Gaiman: Good Omens was “too big” for the BBC to do alone

The writer explained how he ended up working with Amazon Prime Video "almost accidentally" after the BBC realised his and Terry Pratchett's vision was too great a project to adapt without backing

Good Omens poster

Neil Gaiman has said that the challenge of adapting Good Omens for television was “too big” for the BBC to attempt alone.

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The author and showrunner, who co-wrote Good Omens with the late Terry Pratchett, has said that he ended up working with US streaming service Amazon Prime Video “almost accidentally” after the BBC told him it would need a partner in order to do justice to the book.

“Good Omens began life with the BBC, and the BBC went, ‘It’s much too big for us, we need some kind of partner,'” Gaiman said at Prime Video Presents, Amazon’s TV showcase in London. “And we went to Amazon who said, ‘We don’t really want to be your partners; we’d like it if you made it for us.’”

Good Omens starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen will be released first on Amazon Prime Video in 2019, with a later broadcast expected on BBC2.

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First look at David Tennant and Michael Sheen in Amazon Prime Video’s Good Omens (Amazon)

Gaiman and co-author Pratchett have seen a number of adaptations of Good Omens fall through since they first published the work in 1990. Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam repeatedly tried to develop a movie version of the book, while in 2011 it was reported that Terry Jones and Gavin Scott had developed an adaptation for television. However, those projects never materialised.

The BBC did create an acclaimed radio adaptation of the book in 2014, but this will be the first time Good Omens has been successfully adapted for screen.

During the panel event, Gaiman also revealed why he had agreed to an exclusive deal with US company Amazon.

“It mostly has to do with having worked with Amazon almost accidentally for the last few years,” he said, adding that Amazon had become a production partner on both Good Omens and the TV adaptation of his novel American Gods.

“American Gods was with [US broadcaster] Starz but Amazon swept in and said, ‘We’ll just have the rest of the world’,” he said, referring to the company’s international streaming rights.

Gaiman has signed an overall deal with Amazon Studios, which will see him produce future TV series to broadcast on streaming service Prime Video.

He said his experience working with the company on both series convinced him of the move.

“It’s been an absolute delight,” he said at Prime Video Presents, Amazon’s TV showcase in London. “They’re smart, they’re enthusiastic. This is something you will not hear a lot, but they give really good notes. When you are working at the digital coalface just trying to hew six hours of great TV out of what you’ve spent the last year making, having people you can rely on is really good.”

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Good Omens will be released on Amazon Prime Video in 2019, with a broadcast on the BBC to follow at a later date