NBC has had a lousy track record as of late when it comes to new shows, most notably Do No Harm which was the most disastrous TV premier of all time and was cancelled after a mere two episodes. As bad as we might feel for the people who actually worked on that show, it was also blatantly obvious that it was awful. I mean, it was really, really, really terrible not to mention it had one of the most idiotic and insensitive portrayals of mental illness seen on a TV show in quite some time. NBC has a dilemma however as some of their most popular shows like 30 Rock and The Office are either winding down or have already ended entirely. NBC needs a hit very badly so it is with considerable trepidation that we await the premier of NBC’s mid-season show Hannibal.
Based on the Thomas Harris books that began with Red Dragon it features one of the most iconic characters of 90’s popular cinema, Hannibal Lecter. Anthony Hopkins played the role with delicious creepiness in The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Red Dragon with the character getting more and more ridiculous as time went on. Then came Hannibal Rising, a laughably terrible “origin story” for the psychotic cannibal serial killer. One must also not forget Manhunter, the first adaptation of Red Dragon only starring Brian Cox as Dr. Lektor. Why they changed the spelling is beyond me but to this scribe, Brian Cox’s portrayal has none of the ham that was increasingly prevalent in the Hopkins portrayals and plays him completely straight, all the more disturbing that beyond the seemingly average and normal outward appearance is a devious, brilliant and incredibly dangerous psychopath.
NBC’s new show shares it’s name with the second (and most ridiculous) shots at playing the killer but is in fact based before the events of Red Dragon when Lecter is still a free man whose crimes have so far gone unsolved. Lecter is played here by Mads Mikkelsen, an actor of Danish descent probably best known to English-speaking audiences as the dastardly Le Chiffre, the antagonist of Daniel Craig’s James Bond in Casino Royale. He has also worked with Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) on such movies as Pusher and Valhalla Rising. He has a unique charisma about him which lend well to a curious mystique that you get plenty of in the latest trailer for the show. Hannibal is not the sole focus however as the show follows the most interesting protagonist from the series (sorry Agent Starling); Special Agent Will Graham. Played by William Petersen in Manhunter and Edward Norton in Red Dragon, Agent Graham is played here by Hugh Dancy. Graham has the unique gift of being able to put himself in the shoes of the killers he’s looking for. This is both a blessing and a curse, making him a brilliant detective but also causing him to become disturbed, his head filled with death and the irrational thoughts of a thousand murderers.
Red Dragon hints of the fact that Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter have a past where Lecter helped Graham on cases before it is discovered that Lecter himself is responsible for numerous deaths himself. The new show Hannibal looks to delve back into the past of the Graham character, a troubled man compelled to return to the line of work that’s ruining his life due to his special gift. Having Lawrence Fishburn as recurring character Agent Jack Crawford doesn’t hurt either, not to mention that David Slade (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night) directed the pilot. Check out the trailer, it hints at his first meetings with Lecter and also the dark tone of the show. It looks like NBC is not going to shy away from some blood and gore as network TV tries to keep up with the edginess of cable TV that has proven to be so successful for HBO, FX, AMC and others. Let us know what you think! Are you going to check it out or were the last couple of Lecter movie outings just too awful for you to care about the character anymore?