‘Hannibal’ season 3 to premiere in summer

“Hannibal” season 3 will be a little late for dinner – as in summer.

NBC executives had previously suggested that Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal Lecter prequel series would likely return very late in the season, and at press tour today, NBC entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt said it would actually be on in the summer.

“It’s a show we love,” Greenblatt said. “We love it. We also love summer,” noting that it would be part of a lineup that could also include David Duchovny chasing Charles Manson in “Aquarius” and Zachary Levi in “Heroes: Reborn.”

“It”s been critically acclaimed by a few of you in the room, if not many,” he added. (Technically, this may be true; “Hannibal” finished 12th overall in the HitFix Television Critics Poll, but with only votes from eight critics.)

Hannibal’s first season debuted late in spring, and the show wasn’t even renewed for a second until well past that year’s NBC upfront. So would a summer debut affect the feasibility of ordering future seasons? And given the unique financial arrangement NBC has for the show with Gaumont International, is there a lower ratings threshold for survival than a show produced by NBC’s own studio?

“Summer doesn’t affect the future of the seasons,” Greenblatt said after his executive session. “Deal-wise, it’s a great business deal for us, even at a low rating, which is why it’s been for as long as it has been.”

(“Hannibal” remains one of NBC’s lower-rated series, which is no doubt why they’re holding it for summer in favor of shows they hope will do better in-season.)

At Comic-Con, Fuller said that the first half of the season would focus more on Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) and Dr. Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) in Europe. Anderson and Raul Esparza are now series regulars, and it’s been reported that Joe Anderson has replaced Michael Pitt as Mason Verger, while Richard Armitage will portray “Red Dragon” villain Francis Dolarhyde. And for those who keep asking about Laurence Fishburne’s availability – assuming Jack Crawford survives the events of the season 2 finale – the premiere date has nothing to do with it. As an actor, he has first contractual position to “Hannibal,” not “Black-ish” (where he is a producer and recurring guest star), and if Fuller wants him, he will get him.