With an immediately recognisable visual style that people should probably start referring to as ‘Fulleresque’ if they aren’t already, Bryan Fuller has earned his place at the table when it comes to citing modern auteurs. Sure, he may only have flirted with the big screen, but on TV – or box set – Fuller has carved an impressive niche as the brains behind some of the most creative and arresting series in recent memory. With American Gods, arriving on digital download from July 24th, and on Steelbook, Blu-ray and DVD from July 31st, and in partnership with fellow Heroes alumni Michael Green, Fuller has arguably reached new heights and won over a whole new audience. So what better time to get acquainted with a back catalogue just begging to be watched?
Neil Gaiman has gone on the record about having conversations with Hollywood bigwigs on a rotating basis about adapting his sprawling, iconic novel of the same name, but it took Fuller to finally convince him – and the results achieved by creating a brain trust comprising Gaiman, Fuller and Michael Green are simply breathtaking television. The first season of American Gods introduces the world of Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) and charming conman Mr Wednesday (a magnificent Ian McShane) without scraping the surface of the world Gaiman created. Instead, the series takes the road movie DNA found in the book but also lingers on briefly mentioned literary characters with such assuredness that this could only be Fuller. Laura Moon (Emily Browning) and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) almost become the beating heart of the first season however alluring Fuller has made Shadow. Gods who were footnotes in the tale of the Old Gods vs the New take striking centre stage (take a bow Bilquis and her person-eating vagina), and the New Gods themselves are uniformly hypnotic, with Gillian Anderson having the time of her life as Media. All of this is delivered with Fuller’s visual flourish, creating your new must-see show and one that looks and feels like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Did we mention it’s available to buy? You just must.
In many ways, Hannibal was a one-show representation of modern viewing patterns. Adored by critics and fans alike (Fannibals, you know), Hannibal was a sinister, camp, terrifying and blackly comic retelling of the story of Robert Harris’ monstrous cannibal, Hannibal Lecter. Mads Mikkelsen exudes lip-smacking charm as Lecter in his psychological dance with Hugh Dancy’s broken genius, Will Graham. Lavish gore and exquisite production design combined to create a Grand Guignol masterpiece (that also latterly threw a mesmerising Gillian Anderson – here again – into the mix) and yet the show was cancelled after three seasons. You shouldn’t mistake Hannibal for a failure on that basis, however, merely a comment on the constraints of network television. The show flourished on DVD and streaming services but never drew the numbers its network parent needed. Fuller and his cast have expressed interest in revisiting the show further down the line, and he can be assured there will be a horde of hungry Fannibals should he ever choose to do so.
Perhaps better filed under ‘the world wasn’t ready for’, Mockingbird Lane arguably represents a rare misfire for Fuller. A reimagining of The Munsters, the 1960s US sitcom about a household of monsters going about a normal suburban life, Mockingbird Lane saw Eddie Izzard cast as Grandpa (basically Dracula), the creator of the Frankenstein-esque Herman (Jerry O’Connell), built as a husband for his vampish daughter Lily (Portia De Rossi). Reimagining a much-loved 60s classic with more than a dash of that Fulleresque style we mentioned was always going to cause problems for purists but there’s no doubting that Mockingbird Lane was nevertheless an early indicator of how a mind built for TV could work, and it’s not without its fans. The show, with Izzard as the head of the family, was also another early marker that Fuller attracted genuinely interesting actors into his fold.
The only show in this list to hit prime time TV in the UK, Pushing Daisies (which aired on ITV initially) saw Fuller exercising his more playful side, albeit still with a large side of darkness. Lee Pace starred as Ned, a pie-maker with the ability to bring the dead back to life, with Anna Friel as Daisy, the girl he loved and revived but who he could never touch (since a second touch from him sent the dead back to the grave). Despite the woe-is-me set-up, the show operated as an incredibly witty, if left of centre, procedural murder mystery, with Ned and Daisy waking the dead to gain clues and crack the case. Utterly charming and totally bonkers, Pushing Daisies also gave a lead role to Kristin Chenoweth (with whom he’s re-teamed for American Gods) and saw TV legend Swoosie Kurtz providing support. Definitely one to check out.
Of course, not every auteur can hit the big time immediately, but even Fuller’s early projects read as a who’s who of cult favourites known for their invention. Alongside American Gods’ Michael Green, Fuller was found cutting his teeth on several episodes of Heroes (before it got, er, rubbish), the show that arguably demonstrated to everyone that technology and special effects now made superheroes plausible on a TV budget. Prior to that he was also responsible for at least some of the cult favourite Dead Like Me, having made his debut in the midst of a nerdgasm by working on both Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
As mentioned, the first season of America Gods barely scratches the surface of Gaiman’s novel but fans new and old can breath a sigh of relief in the knowledge that season two is already on the way. Having taken a wealth of creative liberties with the source material, and with Gaiman’s total endorsement, Fuller seems to have found the ideal playground for his unique style. As the box set of season one, packed with extras including insight from Fuller himself, will attest, this is a show that demands repeat viewing and one that leaves the viewer begging for more.
Win American Gods Season One DVD here
AMERICAN GODS IS AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS FROM JULY 24TH, AND ON STEELBOOK, BLU-RAY AND DVD FROM JULY 31STPowered by Sidelines