TV review - Hannibal (Sky Living) needs more bite
Psychological profile: Hannibal. Residence: Sky Living. Age: 32 (Bits of plot can be traced back to parts of Thomas Harris's Red Dragon). Motivations/desires: Using one of literature and film's most captivating psychopaths to put a bloody new spin on the hoariest of TV genres, the crime procedural. Conclusion: Needs more fava beans.
In 1999, upon the release of Thomas Harris's Hannibal novel, this parish's John Walsh wrote in a profile of the writer: "God forbid anyone should monkey around with something as pure, as complex, as vivid as Hannibal Lecter." A lesson there, for Dino De Laurentiis, which owns the film rights to Thomas Harris's refined man-eater. Still, this take on Hannibal is still edible, though not quite cordon bleu.
In Hannibal, he's played with a hint of camp by Mads Mikkelsen (for what is a crime thriller in 2013 without a Dane?). His Lecter still has the European accent of his pre-war birth – whether that's Mikkelsen doing Lithuanian aristocracy or Danish-English is hard to tell – and wears giant Windsor knots in his ties and Seventies-style three-piece suits. That all fits the chronology of the character, born in 1933, in Harris's novels. But this show refers to camera phones and is clearly contemporary, so God knows what's happening there, frankly. Best to look at it with the reboot glasses that allow Spider-Man and the Hulk to re-emerge in new guises every few years. Except Spider-Man doesn't know how to prepare human offal.
Hugh Dancy plays Will Graham – the FBI profiler played by Ed Norton in Red Dragon – who's reluctantly been paired with Lecter to profile a suspect. The empathy derived from his Asperger's handily allows him to see crime scenes from the point of view of the perpetrator, which makes him the agency's number-one man for solving cases like the one served up in the first episode, "Apéritif". Here, some bad egg is abducting and eating similar-looking young women in Minnesota. Dancy is on the case and – like his wife, Claire Danes (in Homeland) – uses the full forces of goggle-eyed panic to begin looking for a suspect.
What's odd about this, apart from many of the scenes being set where Bob Dylan has lived (Hibbing, Duluth), is that there are – Graham deduces with speed – two killers at work. One is this episode's baddie, who's been eating girls as an attempt to keep his daughter near him ("Cheers, Dad!") and the other is a copycat and "impossible to read sadist". Who could be anyone, really. But – hint – is likely the mad-looking Dane we see eating pâté immediately after we find out one victim's liver has been removed and replaced. But before Graham inevitably finds out that his new acquaintance is a man-eater (watch out, here he comes), the pair must get to know each other, which they eventually do after Lecter offers Graham some, mmm, home-made sausage and egg for breakfast. You suspect they're going to make a bloody great team.
The problem with Hannibal isn't the concept, as fans of the film series would eat up any Lecter-based yarn. Nor is it the cast (Mikkelsen and Dancy are a fine pair and Laurence Fishburne lends decent support, too, as FBI boss Jack Crawford). It's not even the annoying, over-stylised direction during Graham's re-enactments of the murders. It's that despite having an initial six episodes to exposit the heck out of its leads, we're dumped immediately in the procedural format, with one non-Lecter baddie for episode one paired with the slow-drip discovery of Hannibal's unconventional diet. This might be a reflection of commercial demands placed on this prime-time non-HBO show. But if the success of The Killing, Broadchurch et al has taught us anything, it's that viewers are quite happy not to have a mystery solved every 42 minutes. The Lecter character would have been a perfect way to adapt that pacing into the non-cable US TV, but the producers have bottled it. Like a nice chianti.
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 2 Antonio Martin shooting: Mayor says there should be 'no comparison' to Ferguson
- 3 Antonio Martin shooting: Police and protesters clash over teenager's death just five miles from Ferguson, Missouri
- 4 Northern Lights above Britain: Stunning Aurora Borealis illuminates Northumberland sky on Christmas Eve
- 5 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Cruel Woman in Black prank sees cinema-goers terrified by movie poster - watch their reactions
Best underrated Christmas movies: From Trading Places to While You Were Sleeping
Game of Thrones season five: First preview clip shows a beardy Tyrion, a moody Cersei and a distressed Arya
Christmas TV guide 2014: The best shows to watch from Doctor Who to Downton Abbey
Transformers 4 named highest-grossing movie of 2014 ahead of Guardians of the Galaxy
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'