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'Hannibal' never had a massive viewership, but the show’s fans loved it passionately. Should we cancel TV show 'Clarice'?

Fannibals: Cancel TV show ‘Clarice’ and release more ‘Hannibal’ episodes

The 1988 novel The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris introduced the world to serial killer Hannibal Lecter. In the 1991 film of the same name, Sir Anthony Hopkins guaranteed no one would forget him. 

The book & film both have the same premise. Young FBI agent Clarice Starling is brought into the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) by its chief Jack Crawford. Crawford wants Starling to interview famed serial killer Hannibal Lecter, hoping Lecter will shed some light on the case of “Buffalo Bill”. Bill is an active serial killer who murders & skins women.

The Silence of the Lambs ingrained itself in the minds of everyone who encountered it. Countless shows & movies since have focused on the exploits of the BAU. CBS’s Criminal Minds followed the modern-day BAU hunting serial killers weekly for fifteen seasons. Netflix’s Mindhunter explored the origins of the unit. No return to Harris’s world has been quite as powerful as the Hannibal TV show.

Revisiting the horror

NBC was the first network to return to Hannibal Lecter himself. In 2013 it premiered Hannibal, a show taking place before the start of The Silence of the Lambs. The show follows its title character, portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen, working for the BAU as a forensic psychologist. Lecter kills in secret and tries to influence BAU profiler Will Graham to become a serial killer himself. 

Hannibal never had a massive viewership, but the show’s fans loved it passionately. Its first season averaged nearly 3 million viewers each week, but by the third season, viewership had dropped by more than half. In 2015, NBC cancelled the show.

Despite the low viewership, Hannibal has frequently been listed among the greatest television shows of all time. The plot is as tight & suspenseful as the source material, and its top-notch cast brings in nothing but solid performances. Fans have been trying to revive the show for years, but so far have been met by disappointment.

Not the revival we wanted

Instead of continuing the Hannibal TV show, network TV is now offering a different look back at The Silence of the Lambs. CBS has begun airing the first season of Clarice, which follows Agent Starling a year after catching Buffalo Bill.

With Hannibal Lecter being the obvious selling point of The Silence of the Lambs, why would CBS leave him out of their show? Characters in the franchise are actually owned by different companies so unfortunately, CBS just doesn’t have rights to so much as reference Hannibal in their show.

Clarice is only six episodes into its first season, but it’s already suffering because of Hannibal’s absence. Rotten Tomatoes gives the series a 37% approval rating, and viewership is steadily dropping week over week. 

Where’s the benefit?

Clearly there’s incredibly popular appeal surrounding stories about the BAU, but networks seem to be incapable of taking advantage. Criminal Minds had an impressively long run, but fans were still clamoring for more when the network shut it down. Mindhunter is one of Netflix’s most critically acclaimed series, but its third season is up in the air. 

Thus, instead of getting more Hannibal, BAU fans are forced to absorb Clarice. CBS aired the sixth episode of Clarice on April 1st, 2021. Fewer viewers showed up for it than any previous episode. Still, over six million people saw the episode. If a show with a 37% approval rating gets that many eyeballs, imagine what would happen if networks brought back the Hannibal TV show, which Rotten Tomatoes rates at 92%!

Fans will keep the pressure up. Several Hannibal producers, actors, and writers have all said they would be open to a revival. Maybe they’ll be able to secure a fabled Netflix deal after Clarice gets canceled. 

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