The author Neil Gaiman is one of the comparatively few writers who really understands how to use social media. Not only does he have nearly 3 million followers under the handle @neilhimself, his bio self-deprecatingly insists he will "eventually grow up and get a proper job," though "until then, he will keep making things up and writing them down."

Gaiman is a prolific tweeter, interacting with his millions of admirers in a joyful and unpretentious way. I once had an edifying conversation with him around the time that my biography of Lord Rochester, Blazing Star, was...

The author Neil Gaiman is one of the comparatively few writers who really understands how to use social media. Not only does he have nearly 3 million followers under the handle @neilhimself, his bio self-deprecatingly insists he will “eventually grow up and get a proper job,” though “until then, he will keep making things up and writing them down.”

Gaiman is a prolific tweeter, interacting with his millions of admirers in a joyful and unpretentious way. I once had an edifying conversation with him around the time that my biography of Lord Rochester, Blazing Star, was published. Gaiman is a fully paid-up Rochester aficionado, and was gracious and generous with his time and appreciation.

All of which is to say that Gaiman is clearly a force for good in the often barbarous and ungentlemanly world of Twitter. On the comparatively few occasions that he gets involved in public disagreements, he remains civil and polite, putting his arguments forward without ad hominem abuse. Which is why his continued promotion of the Netflix adaptation of his DC Comics series The Sandman — about which he seems to tweet or retweet dozens of times a day — is entirely understandable. The show has been praised by critics, who have decided it is a bold and brave adaptation of an all-but-unfilmable classic.

To which I must say — reluctantly and with apologies to Mr. Gaiman — have we been watching the same show?

The problems begin in the first episode, Sleep of the Just, which has the feel — as some joker remarked — of a kind of demonic take on Downton Abbey. We see Charles Dance giving it the full Dance Macabre as a 1916 occultist named Sir Roderick Burgess, summoning up Tom Sturridge’s masked Morpheus, the so-called king of dreams, and then imprisoning him in an attempt to capture Death himself. Predictably enough, we soon meet Death, played by Kirby Howell-Baptiste, who is a charming presence full of the kind of aphorisms that give hope and comfort. But she is jostling for space with everyone from Gwendoline Christie’s Lucifer Morningstar to David Thewlis’s wry John Dee, along with characters called things like Fate Mother, Despair and Squatterboat. Edgy social realism, this is not.

By the end of the show’s ten-hour duration, it’s hard to see exactly what The Sandman is. Unlike the considerably lighter and scrappier Good Omens, which had a peerless David Tennant/Michael Sheen double-act to keep matters entertaining even when the metaphysical pizzazz threatened to overwhelm the narrative, The Sandman is buried in portent and self-conscious fantastical flibbertigibbetism. None of this is helped by a selection of surprisingly poor special effects for a drama that presumably cost the GDP of a small Eastern European country. It takes itself terribly seriously, too. Which isn’t to say there aren’t entertaining moments, ideas and performances — Thewlis and Christie are particularly fine. But long before the show ends, all but the most committed Gaiman-o-phile will be wondering when their clock will be punched.

Netflix has been throwing a vast amount of money at fantasy-themed shows lately, between the increasingly bloated budget of its flagship Stranger Things and now this. Clearly their hope is that they can attract viewers who are otherwise turned off by the idea of a subscription-based channel. And perhaps The Sandman might yet refresh the parts that other series don’t reach.

Yet it’s not hard to think that, amiable though he is on Twitter, Gaiman might have done better to put down his iPad for a few months and come up with the truly genre-bending show that his work deserves. Instead he ended up with something that, alas, is likely to be forgotten when the Next Big Thing comes into view.