Disgusting and decadent, 'Hannibal' is Widescreen's favorite TV show of the decade

  • Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is having an old friend for dinner.

    Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is having an old friend for dinner. Associated Press

 
 
Posted12/21/2019 7:00 AM

A lot of writers this month have tried or are going to try to name the best TV show of the past decade. None, it's safe to say, have seen all of the thousands of shows from 2010 to now, so they don't really know. They can only name their favorite, or make a case for which show was most impactful on the medium.

This is my turn to do the former.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Hannibal," the incredibly gory riff on author Thomas Harris' infamous cannibal, somehow ran for three seasons on NBC -- a traditional network, mind you, not an anything-goes cable outlet like FX -- despite ratings that never quite matched expectations. (It was doomed to Friday nights in Season 2, and the last few episodes of Season 3 were burned off on Saturdays in 2015.)

Developed by "Pushing Daisies" creator Bryan Fuller, "Hannibal" had neither the benefit of Oscar-winning icon Anthony Hopkins in the lead role, nor the ability to use Clarice Starling or any other elements unique to "The Silence of the Lambs" -- the producers owned only the rights to Harris' other books.

And yet "Hannibal" was my favorite show of the past decade, an operatic ode to obsession, excess, eroticism and, of course, cuisine, cannibalistic or otherwise.

Mads Mikkelsen played Lecter as a genteel gourmand who developed a palpable affection for Hugh Dancy's haunted FBI profiler Will Graham, a protagonist plucked from Harris' "Red Dragon." Season 1 largely sticks to a "monster of the week" formula as Lecter helps Graham solve a new gruesome case. Season 2 flips expectations by putting Graham behind bars, and introducing Michael Pitt as the deviant, deformed Mason Verger. Season 3 pulls elements from Harris' first and third books together in unexpected ways, with Gillian Anderson and Richard Armitage taking central roles in the show's denouement.

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Uniting all of them is Laurence Fishburne's best-ever work as FBI agent Jack Crawford (Clarice's boss in "Lambs"), downright sensual photography of Lecter's cooking, maddening music by Brian Reitzell, and the blurred line between love and death that all of its characters walk.

You can stream "Hannibal" on Amazon Prime, buy seasons and episodes across most digital platforms, or buy physical copies on DVD or Blu-ray. Fava beans and a nice Chianti not included.

• Sean Stangland is an Assistant News Editor at the Daily Herald who thinks "Orange is the New Black" might be the show that most impacted the medium in the past decade, but that's perhaps a column for another time. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.

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