I may be a little behind the times, but I ran across an article about a Hannibal Lecter TV show premiering on April 4 at 9 PM Central time on NBC. I probably had not heard about this since I do not watch much TV, even “The walking dead” although I love zombies) but I may just have to tune in to this one and see what it looks like.
I am going to say this right up front. I do not want to watch the premiere of “Hannibal” because I think it will be great. I do not even think it will be good. While there could be a surprise in store, I think that this is a very, very bad idea.
The problem that the show will have, and that it will not be able to overcome, is that Hannibal Lecter is an iconic figure. Since the character first came to prominence as a pop culture icon with the movie “Silence of the lambs,” Lecter has been the worst of the bad guys. Anthony Hopkins was able to exude pure evil and scare audiences even when the character was locked behind bars. He gave such a strong performance that even he could not match it in subsequent films (although they were good but not the equal of “Silence of the lambs”). How many people remember the first movie that Hannibal Lecter appeared in? “Manhunter,” which is based on the book “Red Dragon,” was released five years before the “Silence of the lambs” movie. Hannibal Lecter was played by Brian Cox. It really was not a bad movie. It just did not have the intensity of the future movies based on the Thomas Harris novels and the reason is simple: Hannibal Lecter.
“Hannibal” the TV series faces two challenges. The first is that it is a series about a cannibal serial killer. This is not the most TV-friendly topic for a show. This can be overcome, though as there are some shows (“Criminal minds”) that have similar topics and are done well and are fairly grisly for TV. The second problem is the specter of Hopkins as Lecter that will hang over this show and ultimately be its downfall. No offense to Mads Mikkelsen, but he is not Hannibal Lecter in my mind or in the minds of many viewers. I saw a picture of him from the series and would not have guessed which character he was if not for the other elements of the picture. Even if the show is terrifically written and executed, it will forever be under the shadow of the movie Hannibal Lecter. NBC would have been wise to develop the show to feature a Lecter-esque serial killer and avoid tying itself to the character. Those are shoes that are too big to fill, especially on the small screen.