"Hannibal" arrives on NBC Thursday night, and it's not too much of an overstatement to say that this is one of the most anticipated shows to arrive on NBC since "Smash." Expectations are high and so is the body count. But the key question - will this drag some viewer bodies to a time period that is effectively DOA on NBC? It may well do that, but... ah yes, there's always a "but" with NBC.
"Hannibal," WNBC/4, Thursday,10.
What it's about: Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is an amazing FBI profiler who can literally reconstruct hideous crimes in his mind. But he's also a little kooky, and before FBI Behavioral Science Unit chief Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) enlists for one particular monstrous case involving impalement, a serial killer, and cannibalism, he wants Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) to make certain he is mentally stable. A gourmand with unusual tastes - ahem - Lecter has secrets of his own. Based on Thomas Harris' "Red Dragon," the prequel to "Silence of the Lambs," and produced by Bryan Fuller ("Pushing Daisies," "Wonderfalls.")
My say: "Hannibal" says a lot more about creator Bryan Fuller than Hannibal Lecter - specifically his florid visual style, wacky obsessions and deeply, unapologetically Poe-like fascination for all things morbid. Fuller's dead bodies, a multitude of them, are arranged in balletic poses, surrounded by halos of crimson blood. You almost expect Martha Graham to emerge from the shadows to demand that a foot or leg be moved.
The soundtrack is one long unbroken caterwaul of an overworked synth machine: A ballet score for the dead. Scenes are often filmed outdoors in bucolic settings - a peaceful late fall afternoon, or deep in the green shade of a forest where terrible things have happened.
It's easy, or at least tempting, to admire the artistry of his grisly craftsmanship until a thought slowly forms, then gradually takes hold: "Hannibal" isn't quite the sum of its admittedly evocative parts. The story is often strained, or like that poor synth operator, overextended; the shocks tend to be operatic - oversold as opposed to a deft sudden jolt to emotional solar plexus.
And if Will is such a genius at reconstructing crime scenes, why can't he look into that sinister Lecter soul to see the crime scene going on in there? Everyone else in the audience can. "Hannibal" just feels like a waste of a big talent - Fuller's.
Bottom line: "Criminal Minds" meets "Elementary" -- only twice as much blood and three times as morbid.