Pop Culture #616

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Pop Culture #616

In one of the more extreme cases of “better late than never” seen on Australian television, Channel Seven has decided to start showing season two of Hannibal from Monday August 13 (at 10.30pm).
Anyone left hanging on after the cliffhanger ending of season one probably got caught up when season two was released on DVD towards the end of last year; hardcore fans are already well into season three – which is currently screening in the US. But all snark aside, anything that puts Hannibal in front of audiences is a good thing, because it’s a very good show indeed. It’s based loosely on novelist Thomas Harris’ infamous serial cannibal shrink Dr Hannibal Lecter. Harris’ novel Manhunter is the basis of the show, though characters from the later book Hannibal also appear (it’s The Silence of the Lambs that’s meant to be the big hurdle when it comes to licensing – the rights holders reportedly want big money to let the TV series use Clarice Starling).
It started out as a dark parody of the typical “murder of the week” police procedurals but has rapidly evolved into one of the most unsettling, and beautiful, shows on television. Season two begins with the show’s premise tipped on its head: FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, framed for the murder by Dr Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), who has taken his place as the FBI’s go-to guy when investigating serial killers. As you can probably guess, this is a set-up that doesn’t spell good times for anyone apart from Lecter, but even though the series opens with FBI agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and Lecter having a drag-out fight, exactly how we get to the stage where his murderous nature is out in the open remains a mystery.
Time for the traditional disclaimer when it comes to Hannibal: this show does things to bodies that is hard to believe – and watch – and while it’s never gratuitous (and most of the gore is so abstracted it works more as macabre art than anything else), it can be a bit tough to take in if you’re not in the mood. But it’s well worth finding your way into that mood, as the show itself manages to be both hauntingly beautiful and utterly terrifying (with a side serve of dry wit) in a way few other shows can even come close to. So, of course, it’s just been cancelled by its US network, NBC. Fortunately, thanks to the way Hannibal is produced – it’s made by a European company that largely covers its costs with overseas sales – it seems likely that one or another US cable network will pick it up and throw in enough cash to ensure its survival. But a bunch of Australian viewers couldn’t hurt: if you have even the smallest interest in a show that’s like nothing else out there – or you just like dramas about serial killers, which seems like a much larger demographic going by how long the various CSI shows have been on the air – Hannibal is something you won’t want to miss.
Written by Anthony Morris