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THE TV COLUMN

Gruesome Hannibal is latest serial killer series

By Michael Storey

This article was published April 4, 2013 at 2:59 a.m.

What comes to mind when you hear the name Hannibal Lecter?

Yeah. I know. Sort of leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Readers first encountered the cannibalistic serial killer in Thomas Harris’ 1981 novel Red Dragon and again in its sequel, The Silence of the Lambs, in 1988.

It was the 1991 film based on the second book with which most are familiar.

The film, starring Jodie Foster as a young FBI agent, and Anthony Hopkins as the brilliant psychiatrist with base appetites, won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Director.

Hopkins was creepy. Really creepy. Equally creepy is Mads Mikkelsen, who portrays Lecter in the new NBC drama Hannibal. The series, slated for 13 episodes, debuts at 9 p.m. today.

You are now faced with a decision.

Are you willing to pay the price to enjoy outstanding acting in a cinema-quality TV psychological thriller?

The price? Hannibal is one of the bloodiest, most gruesome series to air on network TV. It is not for the squeamish. It is graphic and gory and occasionally quite disturbing. I’ve seen four episodes and still squirm at some of the scenes.

Hannibal continues TV’s seemingly endless fascination with serial killers. Dexter, The Following, The Mentalist, Bates Motel and Criminal Minds are several current examples.

Hannibal comes from Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, Heroes) and is based on Harris’ novels. The prequel to Silence of the Lambs stars Hugh Dancy as Will Graham, a gifted, but tortured, FBI criminal profiler who specializes in serial killers.

Graham is able to get into the heads of killers in order to solve the crimes. His ability to empathize with the killers takes a psychological toll. It is through Graham’s mind’s eye that we revisit the gruesome murders - being pinioned on elk antlers, planted in shallow graves as mushroom food, and strung up with lungs splayed out to resemble angels’ wings.

The series also features Laurence Fishburne as Agent Jack Crawford, head of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, who enlists Lecter to help his troubled prize agent. Crawford has demons of his own.

Lecter and Graham appear to be the perfect crime-fighting duo. Graham, however, is ignorant of Lecter’s, um, gastronomical predilection.

Let the drama, and the gore, begin.

TV TIDBITS

Demi back: Fox says Demi Lovato will return in the fall as a judge for The X-Factor alongside Simon Cowell. Britney Spears and L.A. Reid have left the series.

Bye-bye Babs: Barbara Walters, 83, plans to retire in May 2014. Her TV career began in 1961 when she was hired as a writer for Today.

New network: In September, FX will launch a new cable network aimed at young adults. FXX will have original series and movies and be anchored by the comedies It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The League.

CBS re-ups: CBS has given early new season renewals to almost its entire prime-time lineup - 18 series in all.

Exceptions? Two and a Half Men and Criminal Minds are not yet on the list, but under negotiation. On the bubble and in danger are CSI: NY, Vegas, Golden Boy and Rules of Engagement. CBS will announce the fall schedule in May.

New host: Fox News has named conservative pundit Tucker Carlson as co-host of weekend morning’s Fox & Friends. Carlson replaces Dave Briggs, and will join Alisyn Camerota and Clayton Morris on the couches. Before Fox News, the 43-yearold Carlson worked at CNN and MSNBC. He also spent a stint as an editorial writer for this very newspaper 20 years ago when all his bow ties were just pups.

Round two: Syfy has renewed its time-traveling cop drama Continuum for a second season. The 13 episodes will kick off at 9 p.m. June 7.

Round three: Season 3 of FX’s American Horror Story this fall will be subtitled Coven. Oscar-winner Kathy Bates (Misery) will join the anthology’s ensemble that includes double Oscar winner Jessica Lange (Tootsie, Blue Sky). There will be witches.

Final round: The CW’s 90210 will hang up its ZIP code when the series signs off at 8 p.m. May 13. The show lasted five seasons.

Round and round: Fox is developing a project (film or miniseries) to be called The Run of His Life: The People V. O.J. Simpson, based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book of the same name. The thing “will take viewers behind the scenes of ‘The Trial of The Century,’ driven by the nonstop plot of a courtroom thriller and presenting the story of the trial as it has never been told.” The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. E-mail: mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Weekend, Pages 32 on 04/04/2013

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