NBC’s dark drama/horror series Hannibal continues to be one of the most consistently gorgeous and unsettling shows on TV. Though the series is based on characters from Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon novel, creator/showrunner Bryan Fuller has carved out a distinctly separate path for the story, led by fantastic performances from Hugh Dancy as Will Graham and Mads Mikkselen as the dangerous and cunning Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The show’s current second season has only gotten more strange, abstract, and engrossing in the best way possible (it’s also the most visually driven series on TV), but the ratings from its Friday night broadcasts are very, very low.
The show earns significant ratings gains when DVR playback is added into the fold, but fans of the series are worried that NBC might bring down the axe and withhold a third season. We recently spoke with Fuller about the chances of Hannibal returning for season three, and he confirmed that there is a “Plan B” should NBC not renew it. He also discussed the ratings as a whole and how it’s literary nature is polarizing to viewers.
When asked if there is a “Plan B” in place if NBC cancels Hannibal before Fuller is done telling the story, the showrunner answered in the affirmative but said there are champions of the show at the network:
“Yes [there is a ‘Plan B’]. NBC has been very positive, and I think there are great factions at NBC who are very invested in the show and very much want it to come back and see it as an NBC show and are very proud of it. And then, there are other factions who are like, ‘The ratings aren’t strong enough.’ That is the reality of network television.”
Fuller added that the renewal decision comes down to the internal struggle at the network:
“I think if we don’t come back on NBC, it is not for the lack of many, many people at that network trying to bring us back. They are very vocally supportive of the show, and sometimes they just have to convince others that it’s worth the gamble on the third season. But, you never know who’s going to win that tug of war between the ratings and the creative support.”
Back when there was uncertainty surrounding a second season, Fuller said that there was interest from other outlets in picking up the show, so that may be the “Plan B” that Fuller is alluding to.
Though the ratings stateside aren’t exactly stellar, we also asked Fuller how well the show does in international territories:
“It’s interesting because it varies on territory. We do really well in some territories, and we don’t do well in other territories. For instance, Italy didn’t even pick up Season 2, at all, because Season 1 didn’t perform to their liking. I don’t think Season 2 is showing in Italy, at all. But, there are other territories where it does very well. We certainly do well in Asian markets and certain European markets.”
The executive producer also touched on the polarizing nature of the series, admitting that its literary nature is not for everyone:
“It is a niche show. It’s such a strange thing because it is this poetic meditation on death, in various ways, and it’s not terribly literal. It’s literary, but not literal or reality-based. I came from a household where, if it wasn’t real, it was stupid. Science fiction was stupid, and fantasy was stupid, so you can imagine my frustration. And I think there are a lot of audience members like that, where it has to be grounded in reality and it has to be accessible, in that way, and we are frequently heightened and we are frequently dipping into the fantastical. It really is an alchemy of the tone. It’s not for everyone. I love it.”
Fuller also had high praise for Mikkelsen, who has certainly crafted his own interpretation of the titular character:
“I love the show, and I love the character. I think Mads Mikkelsen has redefined the character, in many ways. Anthony Hopkins is so brilliant and so iconic, and will forever be Hannibal Lecter in many people’s minds, but I’m so proud of what Mads has done with the role, in making it his own. And that’s not to even mention Brian Cox, who I thought was wonderful in Manhunter.”