‘Clarice’ can be fixed: Just add more ‘Hannibal’ into the mix
Clarice, the upcoming CBS series, is set to premiere on Feb. 11. The Silence of the Lambs follow-up, however, just hasn’t captured the imagination of fans as much as the beloved & sorely missed Hannibal has. It looks like, based off of the reviews, Clarice is pretty much dead on arrival. Now, this isn’t to say the show can’t grow & evolve. First seasons are rarely great from the get-go.
But the issues here is, as with many things that lead to sticky situations in Hollywood, legal rights – especially in regard to everyone’s favorite cannibal, Hannibal Lecter. Played to perfection by Anthony Hopkins & Mads Mikkelsen, Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling are forever entwined in the minds of the public. Heading into CBS’s Clarice, it’s clear to many something is missing.
And a nice chianti probably can’t fix it.
What’s wrong with Clarice?
The press had access to screeners for the first three episodes of Clarice. If we had to pick a word that appeared in a good chunk of them? Bland. It’s boring. It’s lacking a sort of je nais se quois. Except, we do know what it is. It’s missing Hannibal. As TVLine writes, “the ghost of Hannibal Lecter looms large here: Without the good doctor to spar with, Clarice isn’t all that interesting.”
Now, the simple fix is to add Hannibal. But the creators don’t have the rights to use the character. It looks like they couldn’t get some sort of time-share custody arrangement like how Marvel and Sony share Spider-Man like awkwardly divorced parents. So, Hannibal can’t be added, which – well it’s not great. But there are ways to work around it because, really, it sounds like Clarice (Rebecca Breeds) needs a foil to play off of or something.
Basically, a better version of this show exists. It’s called Prodigal Son and airs on Fox.
Is it really that bad?
Again, no one is outright calling Clarice bad. Given the source material it hails from, however, the fact that it’s being called “bland” & “boring” seems to be the more cardinal sin here. There are some flashes of brilliance in it. Like digging into Clarice’s past and her PTSD stemming from her time with Buffalo Bill, but it’s more of a Hollywood version of it, you know?
CBS is known for making procedurals, even those based off of beloved properties. It’s frustrating because there is potential here. Sure, we are known Hannibal fans here at Film Daily, but Jodie Foster was amazing as Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs. There’s a compelling & rich character for an actress to really sink her teeth into. The fact that Buffalo Bill made a lasting impact, but Hannibal didn’t?
There’s something to explore in Clarice. But it gets bogged down by the trappings of a network procedural. Clarice Starling has something to say, especially being a woman. It could be powerful, but the first three episodes lack power to make the series stand on its own two feet. In the pilot, there’s a moment where Clarice gives the names of the killer’s victims over his name because “their names are important”.
And that’s a powerful point to make. That’s something interesting, but the rest of it is boring.
Can Clarice improve?
Like we said, first seasons? They’re rarely good from the get-go, but they have to hook in an audience in order to get more seasons so they can improve. Look at another Film Daily fave, Lucifer, that first season was . . . not great. But the show improved with time, even with its stumbles, left something really charming & compelling for audiences to remain dedicated enough to it to save it.
In order to make that blossoming happen? It has to hook you in first. It sounds like CBS’s Clarice failed on that fundamental lesson.
Clarice premieres on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 10/9c on CBS.