Although Bryan Fuller’s previous TV creations (Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies) earned more than their fair share of critical accolades, that didn’t translate into a long shelf life – as only two of that trio even managed to secure a second season. Clearly, Fuller is banking on that not being the case with his next television production: a series based around the infamous Dr. Hannibal Lecter (simply called Hannibal).
Fuller is planning to tell the tale of how Dr. Lecter went from being a respected psychiatrist with a penchant for understanding the psychotic mind – to being exposed as an insane, cannibalistic killer – over the course of some seven seasons, beginning with Lecter’s time spent solving crimes with his eventual captor, FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy).
“[The show begins] before he was incarcerated, so [Lecter is] more of a peacock. There is a cheery disposition to our Hannibal. He’s not being telegraphed as a villain. If the audience didn’t know who he was, they wouldn’t see him coming. What we have is Alfred Hitchcock’s principle of suspense — show the audience the bomb under the table and let them sweat when it’s going to go boom. So the audience knows who Hannibal is so we don’t have to overplay his villainy. We get to subvert his legacy and give the audience twists and turns.”
On the topic of how the Hannibal series will play out, over the course of its first few seasons:
“It really is a love story, for lack of a better description, between these two characters. As Hannibal has said [to Graham] in a couple of the movies, ‘You’re a lot more like me than you realize.’ We’ll get to the bottom of exactly what that means over the course of the first two seasons. But we’re taking our sweet precious time.”
Each season of Hannibal is also being planned as 13 episodes, more along the lines of your average cable TV series (Mad Men, The Walking Dead) than the customary 20 episode + length for network television. The logic behind such a move is that it will “trim the fat” – cannibal pun not intended – so that Fuller’s pitched show arc unfolds over the course of seven, plot-driven seasons, with very little in the way of “filler” episodes.
As was brought up already, working against Fuller’s plans for a long-running Hannibal series is his own track record of producing short-lived TV works. Not to mention, a seven season arc is a pretty ambitious undertaking. Most shows that carry on that long end up suffering from inconsistencies in quality from season to season (see: Dexter for the most obvious and appropriate example) – while others end up essentially running on fumes by the end of their extended run (The X-Files, looking at you).
Now, with all that said: it is worth pointing out that Fuller already has a solid outline for seven seasons’ worth of Hannibal material, which should help the show’s narrative proceedings feel better planned – rather than sporadic or almost improvised at times (a la Lost). Similarly, the idea that Hannibal could be a very different show by the end of its run – from the relatively straightforward crime procedural (with bromantic overtones) it will begin as, is pretty intriguing on its own. Another potentially fascinating televised character study, for sure.
Of course, the most important thing for Fuller and Co. to focus on right now is putting together a show that’s good from the very beginning – as opposed to, theoretically, somewhere down the line. The show’s producers have already snagged an excellent director in David Slade to helm the pilot, which is promising. As has been brought up before, we’re mostly just waiting now to see who will be stepping in the (not) good doctor’s shoes – ones which were worn to very memorable effect previously by Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins.
What do you make of Fuller’s plans for Hannibal? Feel free to sound off in the comments section.