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Hannibal faces death sentence

IF you're enjoying Hannibal on Sky Living on Tuesdays, cherish the experience. There's every chance it might not be around this time next year. I gave a big, fat thumbs-up last week to this Red Dragon/ Silence of the Lambs prequel featuring Mads Mikkelsen as the serial killer and Hugh Dancy as nervy, possibly-on-the-spectrum FBI man Will Graham.

If you're enjoying Hannibal on Sky Living on Tuesdays, cherish the experience. There's every chance it might not be around this time next year. I gave a big, fat thumbs-up last week to this Red Dragon/ Silence of the Lambs prequel featuring Mads Mikkelsen as the serial killer and Hugh Dancy as nervy, possibly-on-the-spectrum FBI man Will Graham.

The critical reaction in America has been similarly enthusiastic. Hannibal currently holds a 63pc positive score on Metacritic, the review-aggregator website. The all-important ratings, however, tell a less upbeat story.

Hannibal started out on the NBC network with 4.36 million viewers; by the fifth episode, the number had dropped to 2.4 million. It bounced back by a couple of hundred thousand viewers for the next two episodes, yet the prognosis is still not good.

 

Talents

Unlike in Britain, where a new series is usually given a decent period of time to grow an audience, and Ireland, where any old home-produced tat can usually bank on lasting two or three series (case in point: RTE's continued attempts to sell Craig Doyle's chat shows to an indifferent public), cold, hard numbers are all that matter to US TV executives.

This is the reason why Desperate Housewives ground on, exhausted and exhausting, for eight long years, but the critically acclaimed Freaks and Geeks, which featured a number of talents (Judd Apatow, Paul Feig, James Franco, Seth Rogan, Jason Segel) who went on to become major Hollywood movie players, was axed after just 12 episodes.

It's worth noting that Freaks and Geeks, which made its debut in 1999, attracted an audience three times the size of Hannibal's, yet this still wasn't enough to save it.

Ironically, while Hannibal struggles to find an audience, another series featuring an equally famous movie serial killer, Norman Bates from the Hitchcock classic Psycho, is flourishing.

Bates Motel, which will be screened over here on the Universal channel (transmission date TBA), stars Freddie Highmore – best known as the charming kid who starred opposite Johnny Depp in Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – as the young Norman.

The series, which has a contemporary setting but takes place before the events in Psycho, deals with Norman's fractious relationship with his domineering mother Norma, played by Vera Farmiga.

Whatever Hannibal's fate turns out to be, it and Bates Motel have sparked a renewed interest in turning movies into TV series. Online retail giant Amazon has taken its first step into original production with Zombieland, a web-only spin-from the 2009 horror comedy that was intended as a pilot for a projected series.

Zombieland's writers originally pitched their idea as a television project; when it became clear there would be no movie sequel, they returned to the idea.

 

CENSORS

Judging from the horrified reaction of fans of the film to the weak script, poor performances and cheap special effects, it appears zombies were behind the camera as well as in front. Don't hold your breath for this one.

Infinitely more promising is Avengers Assemble writer/director Joss Whedon's upcoming spin-off series SHIELD. For those of you who didn't grow up reading Marvel comics, SHIELD is the secret government organisation headed by one-eyed superagent Nick Fury, played in the movie by Samuel L Jackson – although it's unlikely he'll appear in the TV series. Also in the pipeline is Barbarella, a series based on Roger Vadim's campy 1960s movie – which was itself based on a campy 1960s comic strip – starring Jane Fonda, who was Vadim's wife at the time, as a sexy outer space adventurer who fends off the intergalactic bad guys while wearing no more clothes than were necessary to keep the censors of the day happy.

How any of these will fare is anyone's guess, since movie-to-TV transfers have always been a lottery. We all remember the good ones, like M*A*S*H, The Odd Couple, Stargate, Fame and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Two of those improved upon the movies. But do you recall the TV versions of Clueless, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Blue Thunder, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Uncle Buck, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Timecop?

Nope – and probably just as well.


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