Trash TV Guru : “Hannibal,” Episode 1 : “Aperitif”


Okay, here’s the deal — if you follow my “writing” (am I being too generous already?) either here on TTSL, on my own site,, or on other places where my “byline” (again with the generosity!) occasionally appears such as,, or what have you, it’s probably become apparent to you by this point that I don’t talk TV that much. Movies? Sure, all the time. Comics? Yeah, what the hell, I opine on those plenty, as well. But TV? This is, to my knowledge, a first. A new frontier. A new era. A new beginning. A bold, vast, wide-open, new horizon.

Okay, now I know I’m being far too generous. And grandiose. So I’ll cut it the fuck out right now.

Seriously, though, there’s a reason I don’t talk TV that much — I don’t watch TV that much. Alright, fair enough — I more or less never miss a Wolves or Wild game, so what I mean to say is that I don’t watch series TV that much. It’s just not my bag. Even with DVR and cable on demand, both of which negate the need to be in front of your screen at a set time every week,  it’s fair to say that continuing, serialized television just ain’t my thang for the most part. I’m a die-hard Doctor Who fan and have been since age, I dunno, six or seven, but my absolute, long-standing love for that show precludes me from saying what I really think about its current, depressing, lowest-common-denominator iteration too publicly. And I watch The Walking Dead and Bates Motel but Arleigh and Lisa Marie, respectively, have got those bases covered around these parts already. I’d been kind of wanting to dip my toes into the metaphorical waters of TV criticism on this site for awhile now, but there just didn’t seem much to be much point.

Then, I heard that the network suits at NBC had become either adventurous or desperate enough to green-light a series based around Hannibal Lecter, and furthermore that said new series was actually good, so I figured here’s my chance. Fair enough, the new show, simply (and unimaginatively) called Hannibal, shared a title with Ridley Scott’s genuinely atrocious entry into the Lecter cinematic canon, but why hold that against it? Especially since the territory it was going to mine, the backstory set before both the very best (Michael Mann’s Manhunter) and very worst (Brett Rattner’s Red Dragon) of the cannibal shrink’s celluloid exploits, seemed ripe for mining. Plus, rumor had it that the first episode was going to be directed by David Slade, who gave us 30 Days Of Night  and Hard Candy, two films I absolutely loved (we won’t hold the Twilight flick he did against him).

So, I figured, here it was — a show I could get in on the ground floor of and review every week for the edification of you, dear Through The Shattered Lens reader, whoever you are.


Confession time — I still missed the first episode anyway, despite my best intentions. The Wild were playing that night, so sue me. But I dutifully watched it on Comcast On Demand the next evening, and went in with pretty high hopes. It seemed that pretty much everyone liked this thing, from the most cynical corners of the internet to the most pompous and self-important to the most populist to, frankly, the dumbest (Entertainment Weekly, for instance, raved about it). Yup, everybody seemed to be in agreement — TV is bad bad for you, except for Hannibal.

So, yeah — maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe I just don’t “get” how series TV works. Maybe I stupidly wanted it to look and feel like Manhunter on, probably, a fraction of that film’s budget. And maybe — just maybe — I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about, but I thought that episode one of Hannibal, titled (again rather unimaginatively) “Aperitif,” sucked.

The setup, developed/dumbed down for television by series semi-creator Bryan Fuller (Thomas Harris should still get the lion’s share of the credit in my book) probably should work (and maybe on paper it does) — FBI special agent Will Graham, here played by Hugh Dancy (he of the bloodied glasses in the photo below) is paired with noted psychoanalyst Dr. Hannibal Lecter , here played by Mads Mikkelsen (he of the refined table manners pictured above) by Bureau big-shot Jack Crawford, here played by Laurence Fishburne (he  of the admittedly rather uptight appearance pictured far below). Yup, Graham and Lecter are, for all intents and purposes, partners.

Cool, right? And let’s just for the time being leave aside the fact that Dancy is no William Petersen circa the mid-1980s and that Mikkelsen is no Bryan Cox (still the best screen Lecter, I don’t care what anybody says) or Anthony Hopkins. This is TV, we gotta set our sights lower. But even making allowances for all of that, this was still a thoroughly lifeless, clinical, dull affair. Mikkelsen’s Lecter is closer to the version seen (by those who actually did bother to see it) in Hannibal Rising, which I guess makes sense given that he’s still in the early stages of his cannibalistic career here, and by that I don’t just mean that his vaguely eastern European accent is still present. I mean he’s not the older, accomplished, seen-it-and-done-it-all super-genius criminal of the Cox and Hopkins variety — he’s still, for lack of a better way of putting it, nothing but a pompous ass who happens to eat people. Which I guess makes him more interesting than a pompous ass who doesn’t eat people, but only marginally so.

Hannibal - Season 1

As far as Dancy’s interpretation of Graham goes, he probably does a better job in the role than Ed Norton did in Red Dragon, but the ultra-trendy twists Fuller gives the character — placing him somewhere in the autistic disorder spectrum, making him single so he can apparently spark up a love interest a few episodes down the line with co-star Caroline Dhavernas — are both unnecessary and, frankly, kinda patronizing. A lot of people seem to love the the way that this show has Graham mentally “re-live” the murders he’s investigating (all of which in this opening episode supposedly take place in my home state of Minnesota — probably by way of either rural California or Vancouver) by re-casting himself in the role of the killer, but I found it to be pretty gimmicky, to be honest, and already thoroughly predictable by the second time the conceit was employed.  I’ll take William Petersen’s anguished-and-angry version of the character from Manhunter any day of the week, even if I did promise not to hold the series to the same standards as the films.

And, since I opened that door anyway — one thing that both Michael Mann and Jonathan Demme understood about Hannibal Lecter that, frankly and depressingly, no one else has seemed to be able to figure out is that, underneath his civilized and erudite trappings, this is essentially a blackly comic character.  The greatest flaw of Hannibal the TV series — even greater than the lame-as-hell, wrapped-up-way-too-quickly-and-conveniently murder “mystery” here in episode one — is  its insistence on continuing the humorless, morose trend previously established by Ridley Scott, Brett Rattner, and whoever the hell it was who directed Hannibal Rising. Fuller and Slade just plain don’t seem to get this guy at anything beyond the most surface level, and that’s a shame, because apparently we’re in for 12 more weeks of this shallow, thoroughly unsatisfying interpretation of the character.

Serie 'CSI'

Or, should I say, you are. My days as an armchair TV critic are over (at least for now). Hannibal had a few good things going for it, I suppose — particularly Laurence Fishburne’s spot-on take on Jack Crawford and the nifty little scene where Lecter feeds human meat to Graham (unbeknownst to him, of course) — but not enough to get me to tune in for more.  I’m going back to what I know best. CSI with a cannibal just doesn’t do it for me. Now, Cannibal Holocaust on the other hand —

38 responses to “Trash TV Guru : “Hannibal,” Episode 1 : “Aperitif”

  1. Reblogged this on Trash Film Guru and commented:

    My thoughts on the first episode of NBC’s new “Hannibal” TV series, courtesy of Through The Shattered Lens website.


  2. the guy doesn’t even watch TV,, his article as boring as he finds television…for lack of a better way of putting it, a pompous ass how has no idea what he’s talking about. And his occasional use of cuss words to sound cool doesn’t help at all…


    • I freely admit I don;t watch much television — and “Hannibal” didn’t impress me enough to want to get me to start! I guess “pompous ass” is in the eye of the beholder, but one thing I definitely notice is that TV folks talk a lot more umbrage to a person not liking something than do film folks. I think it’s the “fan” mentality that pervades among TV viewers. If somebody disagrees with you about a movie, they ususally don’t take it very personally, but damn, say something less-than-kind about a person’s favorite TV show, and they act like you’ve insulted a member of their family! Now, for all you folks who like “Hannibal” and have taken offense to my negative review of it, I would ask two things — one : take a moment to explain WHY I’m wrong, not just tell me, simply, THAT I’m wrong. You may disagree mightily with my negative view of the show, but at least I did take the time to lay out the reasons why I didn’t much care for it. Convince me to give it another chance by telling me, specifically, why I’m mistaken! I’m an open-minded guy, and reasoned counterpoints to my view will always get me to reconsider! Secondly, watch the best of the Hannibal Lecter films — namely Michael Mann’s “Manhunter” and Jonathan Demme’s “The Silence Of The Lambs” and tell me with a straight face that episode one of the “Hannibal” TV show was anywhere in the same league as those. I think I even stated in my review that it was probably better than the lamer of the Lecter films, like Ridley Scott’s “Hannibal” or Brett Ratner’s truly atrocious “Red Dragon,” but that’s hardly stiff competition. Mann and Demme showed the amazing storytelling possibilities inherent in these characters, that go well beyond pairing him up with Graham to solve “CSI”-style “grim crime capers” every week. If you haven’t seen either of those films for awhile, I would respectfully challenge you to give them a go again and tell me, honestly, if you think the “Hannibal” TV show comes anywhere close to those films, and if so, why. Coming on here and telling me I’m an idiot who doesn;t know what he’s talking about doesn;t impress me much, but explaining WHY I’m an idiot, and WHY “Hannibal” is better than I’d given it credit for being — now, that is something I definitely have time for.


      • It always amuses me how worked up people get over reviews of TV shows. Nobody seems to mind when I criticize films like The Social Network and David Fincher’s remake of the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo but the minute I say anything snarky about a Lifetime movie, the claws come out!


        • Yup, it’s the “fan gene” in full effect! Honestly, you can insult somebody’s mother and they seem to take it better than when you say something even mildly critical of their favorite show! And let’s be honest, it’s not like I said “Hannibal” was the worst thing in the world here or that it was painfully stupid or anything like that — just that it didn’t do enough to grab me and make me want to tune in again and was a pale shadow of the best of the Lecter theatrical films. I guess we’ve grown to expect this sort of pained, deeply offended over-reaction from, say, Joss Whedon fans, or fans of Apple computers, but it appears “Hannibal” is engendering the same type of “you’re either with us or you’re against us” loyalty. As I said, if these “Hannibal” fans care to explain how and why I’m wrong, I’m always game to listen and consider their arguments, but “you’re wrong and stupid and don’t know what you’re talking about” is hardly a persuasive line of reasoning. It might feel good to just get that off their chests and that’s fine — we’re all only human — but shit, this is a REVIEW we’re talking about. It’s OPINION. I don;t see how or why anyone would get so worked up about it. You can insult all my favorite movies all you want — I wouldn;t get worked up or offended about it, because this is just entertainment, not life.


  3. If you wanna review a TV Series, you watch more than 1 episode… and you don’t compare it to the movie. And if you didn’t like the pilot enough to keep watching, you simply shut up instead of talking trash. I guess it’s easier to review movies after you read what all the smart people had to say about them since the movies are released as one full length video, but seriously dude, you have no place here


    • I’m sure that Ryan, the author of this review, can defend himself just fine if he chooses to reply to your comment, but seriously dude, as one of the founders of this site, I find it interesting that you apparently think that it’s your place to say who has a place here. And, as someone who reviews both television and movies on both this site and several others, I really resent people who pop up and go, “If you don’t like it, just shut up.” I think I could make the same argument about people like you who comment on reviews that they dislike. “If you don’t like the review, just shut up and move on.” However, I would never say that because, unlike you, I like the idea of people being able to state their opinions. Tolerance, look it up!


      • How convenient that any complaints about his appalling review, must be (in your mind) just from ‘fans’ of the show. That’s quite a safety net of denial you’ve built for yourself don’t you think- not surprising after you self important post about being a founder. It couldn’t possibly be that his review is terrible for all the valid reasons people are pointing out.

        Fortunately there are other reviews out there, and I do agree with lots of the negative ones, but I do that because they contain proper critique as opposed this self aggrandising without any proper arguments or substance.

        Seeing as you are so keen to trumpet the fact you are a founder how about you take some constructive criticism – look it up.


        • What “valid reasons” would those be? As I said, I’m still waiting for one coherently-stated argument telling me why I’m wrong with any sort of specificity. “You’re an idiot,” “you don’t know what you’re talking about,” “you shouldn’t criticize pilot episodes of TV shows,” and “you should just shut up about something if you don’t like it” aren’t “valid” reasons — and if people like Arleigh and Lisa Marie claim to be founders of this site, that’s not boasting, it’s just a simple statement of fact. It’s not like they’re claiming to run a million-dollar media empire here. They founded a wordpress blog. Good for them. Lots of people have. You’ve apparently got plenty to say, you should start your own and express yourself to your heart’s content. I do agree with your statement that my review isn’t exactly loaded with “proper” critique in the formal sense, but what does that even mean anymore? If you’re talking about following proper academic form and function, then guilty as charged. I write for fun, not a grade on a paper. But for a lot of armchair “experts” out there these days, let’s be honest, “proper critique” just means stating an opinion they agree with, and anybody too thin-skinned to bear to read a negative review of a flippin’ TV show they happen to like is a schmuck, period. If I insult your mother, disparage your core beliefs, or in any way come after you on a personal level, then by all means, drag my name through the mud in return and pay me back with interest. If all I did was knock a TV show you like, get over it.


        • I respond to constructive criticism when I see it. Most of what I’ve seen as reactions to this particular reviews were mostly insults and name-callings.

          A few did provide constructive criticism that didn’t resort to insults though they’re the minority. And yes, I’m the founder of the site and I make it known that while I allow much leeway in how people comment and discuss the things posted I do believe that people need to be civil about it. Things get heated but insults and name-callings I do not abide by.

          The funny thing is that I’m a fan of the show and have been from the start despite a weak pilot and first couple of episodes. But I understand what could be a good show for one might not be one for another.

          This review was an opinion and such be treated as one and the same goes with those who like the show. I think people tend to forget that part of what a review means. They’re not fact and the majority who have commented seem to think their opinion counts as fact and only counts as valid those opinions of their show that align with theirs.

          By insulting the writer these “fans” actually lose any chance of getting this individual to give the show a second chance like I did and maybe change their mind — the right everyone has — about the show.

          I respect what you mean about constructive criticism and I treat people who give them with respect and will happily debate and discuss things posted here with them. But when it comes to most who have commented on this particular posting I’ve yet to see any except for maybe one or two.


          • It is kinda funny how some people won’t let one review of one TV show that they disagreed with from a couple months ago just ease from their momory. Tim says it’s not right and proper for us to assume anyone who disagrees with this review is a die-hard fan of the show, but who else but the most loyal, dedicated, tunnel-vision-addled fans would still be browbeating folks with their objections to what I said this far down the road? And Arleigh’s got a point — it’s not like all this haranguing and name-calling and general juvenile level bullshit from the pro-“Hannibal” camp is going to make me more likely to give thow another go — quite the reverse, if these are the kinds of obsessive, condescending, uncivil nitwits that this show appeals to, then obviously I have no interest in re-visting the show to find out why such a bunch of losers finds it so appealing.


    • I respectfully disagree. If you’ll notice, my headline itself states that I was reviewing only the pilot episode,period. I never claimed to be reviewing the entire series. Secondly, if you follow my movie reviews, you’ll see I very seldom agree with what the “smart people” have to say about anything. Thirdly, if you don’t like any episode of a TV show — pilot or not — I don’t think you should just “shut up and move on,” you should express your opinion. This is still — in theory — a free country. Fourth — who are you to determine I have “no place” on this site? Are you one of its editors? Are you paying for its bandwidth? You’re welcome to disagree with me all you want — unlike you, I respect views that run contrary to my own — but it’s not your job to determine who does or doesn’t “have a place on this” on this website, since you’re not in charge of it. If your logic is representative of the average “Hannibal” fan, no wonder the show didn’t impress me much. My offer still stands, though — tell me why it’s good and why my review was wrong, in terms of the show’s artistic merits, and I could be tempted to give it a second chance. That’s more constructive than dictating who does and doesn’t “belong” on a website, don’t you think?


      • Just to be clear, when I said I “respectfully disagree,” I meant that I respectfully disagreed with Oussama’s comment, not Lisa Marie’s. Hers, obviously, I agree with. And the more I think about them, the more Oussama’s comments bug the heck out of me. Not that it really matters, because they’re so absurd on their face. “if you don’t like it, keep your mouth shut” is quite possibly the lamest excuse for stifling criticism I’ve ever heard. Does anyone actually believe that? If so, you’re living in the wrong century and I think your efforts might be better spent inventing a time machine, so you could transport yourself back to a simpler age when disagreement with the prevailing rulers of a given church or state just plain wasn’t tolerated. Secondly, the idea of somebody who reads a website dictating who does and doesn’t belong on it is almost equally absurd. Here’s an idea — if you don’t like the views expressed on this one, rather than setting yourself up as the dictator of a site you have nothing to do with, start your own! Only allow opinions you agree with! Guess what? It’ll be your site, and you’re free to do with it as you see fit. But you’d better be prepared to explain and/or justify your own opinions if you want readers to agree with you, which is something you still haven’t done here! For all your bluster, you have yet to explain what’s so good about “Hannibal,” or point out why you think I was wrong. You’ve just doubled down on your vitriol, without providing the reasoning behind it.


  4. Tvtrashguy… First timer here. I didn’t find your review helpful. Partly rage, partly poor choice of words,partly hysterical rant, I was looking for a more balanced view, less a comparison to movies more on the characters and less on the gossip about the producers and directors… I am hooked on the intensity and psycho games played by Lecter. His is a personality of a deliciously perverted psychiatrist with a nack for rude people. The episode Fromage was epic, and you can’t really call that blaze… Please reconsider. You will change your mind after you see the rest of episodes.


    • I might get around to watching some of the other episodes one of these days, but it’s not really high on my to-do list. Still searching for the “rage” and “hysteria” in my review, I must admit — the tone was negative on the whole, sure, since I didn;t care for the show, but it was certainly even-keeled throughout, and I never once “lost my temper,” even rhetorically speaking. I’ll give it to you “Fannibals,” as I think you’ve taken to calling yourselves — you’re passionate about the show you love. But please, don;t assume anybody who does’t like it is “hysterical,” stupid,” or any of the other bizarre labels that have been thrown in my direction by overzealous fans since I posted this review a few weeks back. Your line about “I didn;t find this review helpful” is a fine and level-headed critique, absolutely, but you kinda lose me after that. Not everyone’s going to like “Hannibal,” so what? It’s a TV show. You like it, great, accept that other perfectly sane, level-headed folks won’t like, while others will, and we can all live happily ever after.


      • My apologies, I didn’t want to offend. I did not call you stupid or other epithets. But please do watch it again and reconsider. We would love to have you in our midst. Last night’s episode was another earth shaker.


        • I’m glad you enjoyt it — really, that’s cool. And I might try it again sometime. But I have a long list of other things I want and/or need to see first. If I get time in the future I might give it another go, but it’s not really burning up my “to-do” list.


  5. Can’t take this guy seriously.. He’s a doctor who fan and talks shit about other shows.. really?


    • If you read my review, you know that I’m a very specific type of Doctor Who fan — I like the original series. The new version does absolutely nothing for me. But damn, you “Hannibal” fans are a persistent lot. I wrote this review, what? A couple months ago? And I’m still getting comments from those who take exception to it. My advice? Get over it. I like the movies and shows that I like, and honestly, I could give a shit whether or not anyone else shares my tastes. Not sure what it is about “Hannibal” that precludes its fans from having that same attitude, but seriously, if NBC could bottle up the fan allegiance for this show and spread it to their other programs, they’d soon find themselves with an army. I’ll “talk shit” on whatever shows I want, thanks very much — it’s not like I’m insulting anyone personally when I write a negative review of a TV show, fer chrissake. Read up through the previous comments left by other “Hannibal” fans on this thread and you’ll see what I mean — these people really need some perspective.


      • The show itself has grown on me due to Mikkelsen’s unique take on the Lecter character.

        Most Hannibal fans are quite levelheaded but the vocal ones tend to be just as obsessive about protecting this show as with other TV fandoms like Supernatural, Dr. Who, Sherlock Holmes, etc…

        One would think that recommending you try watching more episodes as a way to get a better overall view of it a better tactic than going the lunatic fringe way of insulting a viewpoint that doesn’t confirm with their own.

        And yes when I say lunatic fringe that’s exactly what the comments sound like. Well, there was one guy who actually asked you to try watching it again.


        • I’m cool to try watching it again — when I have time. But yeah, telling me I’m an idiot or getting hyper-defensive over something as inconsequential as a TV review? That’s not likely to convince me it’s worth my time.


  6. Just an opinion( what these is set up for) my husband and I only ION reruns of Criminal Minds , & Law & Order CI until January when the second season of NBC.Hannibal which we were hooked by the end of the show. Love the story and the cliffhanger! WOW.


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