Well, to be more specific, HBO offered to redevelop the series and its writer refused.
Johnson might just be guessing at the reasons for HBO's decision, but it's surprising that he thinks HBO thought the series was "too violent and too controversial." Isn't this HBO's turf?
Mark Steven Johnson, who wrote the pilot and was set to serve as an executive
producer, tells Comics Continuum that the new head of the cable network thought the series “was just too dark and too violent and too controversial.”
“It was a very faithful adaptation of the first few books, nearly word for word,” says Johnson, who directed Daredevil and Ghost Rider. “They offered me the chance to redevelop it but I refused. I’ve learned my lesson on that front and I won’t do it again. So I’m afraid it’s dead at HBO.”
Well, sort of. Because there's also the issue of religion. See, Preacher generally mocks Christianity -- and the Christian right might have been offended. Far more than they were by the violence of The Sopranos or Rome.
Then again, HBO might not have liked the script. Enough to demand a re-thinking rather than a rewrite.
Adapting Preacher to live-action isn't dead, however:
Plans for the one-hour TV series, announced in November 2006, were welcome news for fans who had been disappointed when a previous attempt to adapt Preacher as a feature film was abandoned.
Johnson says there are efforts to give a movie another try: “I’ve heard someone is in the process of getting the rights to turn it into a feature film. I hope that happens. But I hope it happens as a series of movies as one movie couldn’t do it justice.”
One only hopes that we don't wish Watchmen got the HBO treatment instead of a feature film after seeing the Watchmen movie in a few months...
Sadly, no comics property has gotten a faithful TV adaptation. Yes, they have gotten both live-action and animated series over the years. But none have been real adaptations, in the style of TV mini-series. With all the buzz over comics properties in the movie theaters, and Heroes doing so well for NBC, you'd think that TV would be the next step -- and, in the process, adapt a bunch of comic book properties that might not otherwise get a chance. And with cable TV, including violence and solid production values is no longer the problem it once was.
Preacher looked like it was going to crack that particular egg, which could have been far more important, in the long run, than simply seeing the series in another medium. It's hard to imagine that the series wouldn't have been a success, in part because of the same controversial material that Mark Steven Johnson cites as a reason for the series's demise.
Cross-posted as part of "Sequential Culture" over at Sequart.org.