Don’t freak out yet over NBC cancelling ‘Hannibal’

NBC has canceled “Hannibal.” But given Dr. Lecter’s previous escapes, should we assume this is it for Bryan Fuller’s take on the character?

A few minutes ago, NBC announced they would not order a fourth season of the show, though the low-rated third will continue to air Thursdays at 10. Both the network and Fuller put out statements about the decision, with NBC’s saying, “We have been tremendously proud of ‘Hannibal” over its three seasons. Bryan and his team of writers and producers, as well as our incredible actors, have brought a visual palette of storytelling that has been second to none in all of television – broadcast or cable. We thank Gaumont and everyone involved in the show for their tireless efforts that have made ‘Hannibal” an incredible experience for audiences around the world.”

Fuller, meanwhile, left the door open for Hannibal the Cannibal to make a dinner reservation elsewhere, saying, “NBC has allowed us to craft a television series that no other broadcast network would have dared, and kept us on the air for three seasons despite Cancellation Bear Chow ratings and images that would have shredded the eyeballs of lesser Standards & Practices enforcers. Jen Salke and her team have been fantastic partners and creatively supportive beyond measure. ‘Hannibal’ is finishing his last course at NBC”s table this summer, but a hungry cannibal can always dine again. And personally, I look forward to my next meal with NBC.”

When I interviewed Fuller at the end of season 1, I asked how nervous he was that year that he wouldn’t get to make a second season, given the ratings. At the time, he told me, “I knew there was going to be a second season, regardless, whether or not it was on NBC.” So once upon a time, at least, there was another party interested in picking up the show. Would that same party still be interested two years later?

NBC’s deal with Gaumont International, which makes “Hannibal,” made the series cheaper – though no one knows by how much – than a traditionally-produced drama with a comparable cast and level of production values, which is why it’s been around for three years so far. At a certain point, the ratings went too low even for NBC to abide, but could Gaumont make a fourth season appetizing to, say, Amazon, which already has streaming rights to the earlier seasons? Or to some out of the way cable channel just looking for anyone to notice its existence? Once upon a time, such a resurrection for a show with viewership this small would be improbable; in today’s TV environment, when brand names and passionate audiences have tangible value in a landscape of limitless choice, it would almost be more surprising if someone doesn’t rescue “Hannibal.”

Fuller has talked about plans of different lengths for the series, and it seems that this season will take us through a good chunk, if not all, of the plot of the original Lecter novel, “Red Dragon.” I’d obviously love to see more of whatever nightmarish, delicious visions Fuller, David Slade, et al have cooked up for us, but if they get to the end of that book, that may be satisfying enough. Even if I expect to be having this old friend for dinner somewhere else next year.