It’s October! The time of year when the leaves change colors (not in California), the weather begins to cool (not in California), and kiddos swap out their N95 masks for spooky Halloween masks (with N95 masks under them).
It’s also a brilliant opportunity to examine the things that frighten us, specifically TV shows.
Netflix, of course, is no stranger to seasonal programming. Last year, the streaming giant dropped Mike Flanagan’s “The Haunting of Hill House” on October 12, delighting fright fans everywhere, before repeating the trick last week, with the debut of the second installment of the anthology series, “The Haunting of Bly Manor.”
Naturally, there’s been plenty of ink spilled dissecting both “Hill House” and “Bly Manor” and the general fervor around the series leads to a seemingly inevitable question, particularly for fans of horror TV: Should Netflix go all in and revive NBC’s long-canceled “Hannibal” for a fourth season?
It’s been more than five years since Bryan Fuller’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novels was cancelled and five years of loyal fans agitating at the slightest sign that the gods might smile upon them and see the reincarnation of the devil himself — Hannibal Lecter — returned to their screens. Still, their hope isn’t unfounded, as Fuller, and stars Mads Mikkelsen (whose depiction of Lecter may have surpassed that of Anthony Hopkins himself) and Hugh Dancy (as psychologically delicate murder baby Will Graham) all expressing interest as participating in a fourth season.
Further, when “Hannibal’s” three seasons arrived on Netflix in June, Mikkelsen shared the news, as well as a link to a story contemplating whether or not the series could eventually be resurrected by the streaming behemoth.
On the surface, Netflix feels like a natural place for “Hannibal” to land. The streamer would definitely have the budget to support the show, which bent over backward to keep costs low in an attempt to justify its existence in the face of soft ratings, and they’re clearly committed to high-quality horror programming, something that not every purveyor of TV can claim.
Netflix also makes sense as a home for “Hannibal” thanks to the show’s queer subtext/text/subtext — I mean, Will and Hannibal are clearly in love/want to smooch/want to get married/want to murder each other/want to murder everyone else — as well as being an outlet that’s more than prepared to turn the keys to the kingdom over to a creative mind they believe in, a la Flanagan or, say, David Fincher on “Mindhunter,” or the collected works of Ryan Murphy.
And listen, as a person who just last year was ranting that audiences deserved the return of “Hannibal” to live out our own fantasies of control and straightforward disposal of rude — and rich, if he can get around to it — people (imagine what he could do if we let him loose on Congress), I support fans’ single-minded commitment to bringing the show back in whatever way, shape, or form they can.
I suspect that part of the magic that was “Hannibal” came from the restrictive nature of broadcast television. Not only was the production hamstrung by budget restraints, they also had to painstakingly coordinate their efforts with standards and practices — not a small ask of a series that single-handedly presented the goriest, most inventive, most mind-bendingly beautiful murder tableaus ever seen on TV, network or otherwise.
Netflix — like a lot of outlets in the prestige TV business, including FX and HBO — isn’t particularly well-known for pushing back against the whims of a superstar showrunner, sometimes resulting in disproportionate valuation of artistic license over tight narrative storytelling. As much faith as I would have in the “Hannibal” team to maintain their vision without the hidebound restraints of S&P, the series required constant vigilance to make sure that its lurid psycho-horror never tipped over into unchecked camp.
We want “Hannibal” back. We might even need “Hannibal” back. But the idea of the show returning on Netflix leaves me pondering the same old question: Is it better to burn out or fade away?
Believe it or not, my compadres on this week’s episode of IndieWire’s TV podcast “Millions of Screens,” Deputy TV Editor Ben Travers and Creative Producer Leo Garcia, don’t necessarily agree with all my, TV Awards Editor Libby Hill’s, points about the potential pitfalls of a “Hannibal” and Netflix dream team. But they’ll get a chance to speak their own minds later in the month when they wax rhapsodic about their own favorite horror shows.
Plus, stay tuned as Travers explains the brilliance of Luca Guadagnino’s HBO series “We Are Who We Are,” despite the reservations he felt after watching the first episode. Meanwhile the crew gets a new message from Corgi Corner, with special “The Crown” correspondent and TV Executive Editor Ann Donahue reporting on the new trailer released for Netflix’s crown jewel. In keeping with ongoing social distancing mandates, this week’s episode was again recorded from the comfort of everyone’s respective Los Angeles-area apartments, and we’re again offering viewers a video version of the podcast, as embedded above.
“Millions of Screens” is available on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can subscribe here or via RSS. Share your feedback with the crew on Twitter or sound off in the comments. Review the show on iTunes and be sure to let us know if you’d like to hear the gang address specific issues in upcoming editions of “Millions of Screens.” Check out the rest of IndieWire’s podcasts on iTunes right here.
This episode of “Millions of Screens” was produced by Leonardo Adrian Garcia.