Hannibal. I know you’re not watching it. Or at least, not enough of you are. NBC is on the fence about renewing it because the numbers just aren’t that high. But they’re still considering renewing it, and the likely reason for that is because it’s a flipping fantastic show and deserves another season.
On any cable network, Hannibal would be doing gangbuster ratings… for a cable network. But NBC is still living in the 1990’s, expecting huge numbers for quality programming on a broadcast network. They won’t get them, but that doesn’t mean the show should be cancelled. If they were smart they would have launched Hannibal on one of their cable networks as that station’s anchor show.
Maybe they’ll still move it over to one of those networks; SyFy would be a good fit, and would lend some much needed respectability to that network. Chiller would also be a good fit, and bring that network out of the shadows, but the distribution of that network just isn’t big enough yet to support such a move. Bravo could also be a possibility, though I don’t think the fit is as good branding wise. Still, Bravo has more mainstream draw, and would likely pull in larger numbers.
But no matter what, NBC should not cancel the show. And you need to start watching it. Because it’s good. Really good. Extremely good.
And here are five reasons, among many, many reasons, why you need to support this show.
1. It’s smart, and it expects you to be smart as well.
The writing is superb, and doesn’t expect you to not be able to follow. Characters that are supposed to be intelligent are actually using vocabulary above a 6th grader’s, which is something I don’t know if I can say about any other broadcast TV show right now. For example, listen to the dialog between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham in this scene, and tell me that there’s any better writing on any broadcast show right now? It expects you to be able to keep up, to picture the imagery yourself, to feel the anguish that Graham is feeling yourself, and to know that through this all, Graham is speaking unwittingly to a serial killer.
Watch this starting at 1:13.
2. It’s gorgeous.
Seriously, it’s just pretty. It looks pretty, it sounds pretty. Even when, maybe especially when, it’s also disturbing. The use of color, of fantastic imagination, of natural settings… there aren’t many shows that can do any better right now. Or ever, for that matter. Really, the only show I can think of that’s prettier is Vikings (which, by the way, you should also watch).
3. Mads Mikkelsen is amazing as Hannibal Lecter.
He’s perfect. He is at the same time both intelligent and sympathetic, but also creepy and off-putting. His Lecter is more believable than Hopkins, more human, but also more menacing. He screams both high society, and society’s dark underbelly at the same time. And he does it quietly and with poise. You almost root for him to win, he seems almost reasonable, but then he has a look that gives the viewer just the slightest hint of his darkness. This is a man you can picture eating people, but then going to the opera afterwards… and you’ll keep hoping he doesn’t get caught doing the first.
4. Hugh Dancy as Will Graham brings enormous depth to a character type that’s been done before, and makes it interesting again.
At the very base of it, this character is just a crime scene investigator. Really, the whole show is just CSI: Cannibal. But Dancy, and the writers, make it much more than that. The Will Graham character is broken, barely able to control his mind, always on the edge of a breakdown. He’s smart, but willing to go beyond that to gut instinct. The show does a good job of breaking away from reality for his crime scene cutscene recreations; by placing him into the role of the perpetrator, you the viewer get to watch this gentle character commit unspeakable murders, over and over again. And that takes a toll on Graham, he almost but not quite cracking as he descends deeper into the world of serial killers. And then sometimes he does crack. It makes the show greater than the sum of its rather substantial parts.
5. The pacing. The wonderful pacing of the show.
How many other shows will spend 15-30 precious seconds of an episode just showing the clouds rolling by? Not just once, but multiple times in an episode? The show gives you the viewer time to pause, to reflect on what is happening, to let the feelings of what was just seen and what you’re about to see sink in. It builds the tension, makes you consider, makes you think. And that makes the show that much more effective. The story is important, but how the story is told is even more important, and the show-runners know that. It’s a 45 minute long movie, every single week.
Watch this starting at 0:57.
And this one from the beginning, and then again at 2:10.
So there you go. Go watch the show. Hulu it, on-demand it, walk to the NBC studios and demand to get early released DVD’s of it… whatever, just watch the show. Even if it doesn’t end up getting renewed, which it really, badly, desperately needs to be renewed, it will still have been worth your time.