Summer TV Preview: Hannibal

Hannibal (NBC)
June 4

Hannibal makes sense in the summer, when its ravishing, gourmet treatment of pulp storytelling stands in artful contrast to the lowbrow mayhem on view at the multiplex. But it’s also a shame that NBC keeps its crown jewel apart from the rest of its programming. Part of that is due to business: Hannibal is produced and distributed worldwide by Gaumont International, meaning NBC’s relationship to the show is strictly transactional. But part of it is also servicey: Hannibal’s horrifyingly beautiful imagery, its amused attitude toward cannibalism, and its arch, fetishy interpretation of violence is to the rest of NBC’s lineup as Cheers is to The New Normal.

I’ve yet to dive into Season 3 — the screeners just arrived and I find Hannibal to be as disturbing as it is delicious, meaning bingeing isn’t on the menu — but there’s no reason to expect any drop-off in quality. The action moves to Europe, Gillian Anderson moves to the regular cast, and Michael Pitt moves away completely — his Mason Verger has been recast with Joe Anderson, which isn’t that big a deal since Mason Verger mutilated his own face in Season 2. Hannibal is unquestionably extreme — but that’s not what makes it remarkable. It’s the rare show that has taste, even if its particular appetites aren’t for everyone.


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