'Hannibal' Review: An Unappetizing New Drama
'Hannibal' Review: An Unappetizing New Drama
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
It almost doesn't even seem worth it to review NBC's newest drama, Hannibal, premiering Thursday, April 7 at 10pm. I'll get to the atrocious acting and dull pacing in a bit, but since the show is destined to be canceled, why rush in?

You see, Hannibal is airing Thursdays at 10pm on NBC. In the past two years, that time slot has been home to Do No Harm, The Firm, Awake and Prime Suspect, all failures. Less than 20 years ago, Thursday at 10pm on NBC was home to TV's most-watched program, ER, but oh how times have changed.

Now, anchored by dismally-rated comedies, the old ER time slot is where slightly ambitious shows go to die. It doesn't help that Hannibal will air against the most buzzed-about show on TV, Scandal, and the year's most popular new drama, Elementary. There's a better chance that McDonalds will start serving Human Liver McNuggets than there is of Hannibal succeeding.

Perhaps that would be different if Hannibal were a truly brilliant series or filled with high-profile stars, but it's not, and its two leading men are Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen (that sound you currently hear is crickets chirping).

Hannibal centers on Will Graham (Dancy), a profiler and professor who gets recruited by the FBI to help investigate a serial killer. Will is anti-social, bordering on autistic, but his imagination gives him extreme empathy that allows him to relate to anyone, even murderers. He often imagines himself committing the crimes to get into the killer's head.

In many ways, the character and show remind me of the TNT drama Perception, starring Eric McCormack as a schizophrenic neuropsychiatrist working with the FBI. Both have socially awkward leading men who have a dazzling, unique way of seeing things that others miss. The difference is, Perception premiered with 5.6 million viewers and was renewed for a second season, two things Hannibal will most likely not experience.

I haven't mentioned the titular character, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, yet, and that's because I'm trying to forget him. He doesn't show up until about halfway through the pilot, and when he does he's played by the Danish actor Mikkelsen with such a thick, impermeable accent that I could only understand every third or fourth word he said. He also lacks any charisma or charm, two things Anthony Hopkins had in spades when he made the role famous. It's impossible not to compare him to Hopkins, though Mikkelsen doesn't even rise to the level of Gaspard Uilliel in Hannibal Rising.

Graham and Lecter have no real chemistry in Hannibal. It's easy to look over at FOX's The Following, with Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy, and see how the cat-and-mouse game is supposed to be played. But those are much better actors and that is a much better show.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Hannibal is that it's written by Bryan Fuller, who created some of my favorite shows like Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls and Dead Like Me. I think the main problem is that he excels at quirky, fantasy-tinged dramedies. Taking on a dark, dreary, serious, psychoanalytical procedural crime drama isn't in his wheelhouse. It's like when David E. Kelley, the effervescent writer of Ally McBeal and Boston Legal, decided to create TNT's dull-as-cardboard hospital drama Monday Mornings.

Fuller is among the top tier of brilliant TV showrunners as far as I'm concerned, on par with the likes of Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams. But Hannibal goes against everything he's good at. I don't see Two and a Half Men mastermind Chuck Lorre trying to create a stylish period drama for AMC, so Fuller shouldn't waste his time on shows like this.

But as I said at the start, none of these complaints matter because there's no chance Hannibal will succeed. It's destined to fail, like everything NBC does in that time slot, and unlike Awake, I doubt people will mind. Now Bryan Fuller can get back to being TV's answer to Tim Burton, Mads Mikkelsen can go back to Denmark and I can go find some fava beans and a nice chianti to wash the taste of this awful show out of my mouth.

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(Image courtesy of NBC)