In Sad-But-Probably-Inevitable News, NBC announced Monday that it has cancelled the acclaim-heavy but ratings-light drama Hannibal. The show will finish its Season 3 run throughout the summer on the network, then end. I know you may not know it, because statistically there’s a good chance you’ve never seen the show, but this is really sad.
Hannibal premiered in 2013 to shrug-worthy ratings that just kept getting worse, likely because of people like me, who thought another rehash of the Hannibal Lecter character wasn’t warranted. I’ve said before that I was wrong about that, and I’ll keep shouting it for as long as this show has a chance at survival.
I dove in midway through the first season, streaming previous episodes on Amazon, and I was hooked 10 minutes in. I know, it sounds on the surface like a show that just reboots a series of successful films, but Hannibal is oh so much more. Creator Bryan Fuller, along with an incredible cast and dynamite team of directors and designers, has created an alternate universe in which Hannibal the Cannibal can play, a lush nightmare of human flesh, beautiful art, and incredible performances that dive deeper than any of the films (even the near-perfect Silence of the Lambs) ever did. The result is one of the best shows (if not the best show) on TV, a daring combination of violence, philosophy, and dark beauty.
Sadly, Hannibal never really caught fire with viewers. This was a show that started in lukewarm mode, ratings-wise, and never even climbed back to that level. In a statement addressing the cancellation, Fuller conceded this, and thanked NBC for sticking with the show this long.
“NBC has allowed us to craft a television series that no other broadcast network would have dared, and kept us on the air for three seasons despite Cancellation Bear Chow ratings and images that would have shredded the eyeballs of lesser Standards & Practices enforcers,” Fuller said. “(Entertainment president) Jen Salke and her team have been fantastic partners and creatively supportive beyond measure. HANNIBAL is finishing his last course at NBC’s table this summer, but a hungry cannibal can always dine again. And personally, I look forward to my next meal with NBC.”
In another statement, NBC gave Fuller and company the highest praise for the work they’ve done on the show.
“We have been tremendously proud of Hannibal over its three seasons,” NBC said in a statement. “Bryan and his team of writers and producers, as well as our incredible actors, have brought a visual palette of storytelling that has been second to none in all of television — broadcast or cable. We thank Gaumont and everyone involved in the show for their tireless efforts that have made ‘Hannibal’ an incredible experience for audiences around the world.”
This was a business decision, a tough one, and one that plenty of TV critics and fans who’ve loved the show for nearly three years wish NBC didn’t have to make, but this is the hard truth of TV. Not enough people were watching Hannibal, despite numerous accolades, and so NBC will hand off that hour of airtime to something else and hope it does better.
So, is this the end of the road for Hannibal? Definitely not. Fuller has said for some time now that he hopes the show could find another home if NBC ever dropped the axe (a concern since Season 1), and producer Martha De Laurentiis said today that they’re already looking at other options. So, it’s not too hard to imagine the series coming back soon on Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or elsewhere. I hope it does, because — and I’m really not exaggerating — this show was capable of incredible things.