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TV Dinners: NBC Orders Hannibal Lecter Series

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Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs

During the writers’ strike a few seasons ago, CBS experimented with rerunning Showtime’s Dexter in primetime. The episodes were edited for broadcast, and while they raised unsurprising protests over a major network airing a show whose protagonist is a serial killer, the problem in the end was that a dark, pay-cable drama is a better fit on a dark, pay-cable network, where it can be as dark and pay-cable as it needs to be.

It’s now 2012, and struggling NBC is run by Robert Greenblatt, who used to run Showtime. (You can thank or blame him for Smash, which he developed there.) And Greenblatt’s latest bold move is to order straight to series, skipping the pilot process, a drama about a serial killer: cannibal Hannibal Lecter, in a series set in the era of Thomas Harris’ novel Red Dragon.

As with any new pilot, much less one at this early a stage, so much of Hannibal will depend on execution: how well the show captures the novels/movies’ spirit, how well the lead role is cast. On the plus side, it’s being produced by Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies), an inventive creator the network is smart to be working with (he’s also in charge of their now-delayed Munsters remake), and it has strong source material. On the other hand: who ever gets the lead has to suffer comparisons to Anthony Hopkins; much of Fuller’s best work has been in lighter, quirky stories like Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, and Daisies, in which I recall pies eaten but not people; and the whole let’s-just-sign-up-a-famous-brand-and-cross-our-fingers thing did not work so well, most recently, for The Firm. And as with Dexter, there is the whole question of whether a broadcast network—NBC still counts, so far—can tell the story as it needs to be told.

Still, fingers crossed. Anyone breaking out the chianti over this news?