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New show round-up: Hannibal and How to Live With Your Parents

One is surprisingly fantastic, the other characteristically flat. Find out if you should dig into Hannibal or discover How to Live With Your Parents (For The Rest of Your Life).

New TV shows are constantly trickling into our lives, so we here at Wires & Lights want to save you the time and effort it can take to find out if a show is actually worth watching.

In this feature we will endeavour to point you toward the good — or just promising — and away from the terrible. This week, we have two new shows to cover, and they could barely be further apart in terms of both content and quality.

Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal.

Hannibal

It’s always a tough balance of risk versus reward when it comes to reviving properties that have already been thoroughly explored. Given the cultural prominence of The Silence of the Lambs and Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, a new adaptation would truly need a powerful mind behind it. Thus why it’s reassuring to know that Bryan Fuller, of Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me fame, is at the helm. And if the pilot is any indication, we’re in for a treat.

Premiering in NBC’s death slot of 10pm on Thursday nights, Hannibal looks unlike anything else on network television. Fuller has a magical ability to find beauty in the dark, and he’s aided in the pilot by the phenomenal direction of David Slade, best known for Hard Candy (also promising is that the show will function as the directorial debut of Guillermo del Toro’s chosen, Oscar-winning cinematographer, Guillermo Navarro).

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There is a fair amount of blood and violence in “Apéritif” which may prove too much for some viewers. But the way it’s presented makes it grotesquely beautiful; the series has a Lynchian nightmare quality and attunement with nature that evokes Twin Peaks, as well as an extremely slick, Kubrickian visual style (watch for the big reference to The Shining). Even impaled bodies and blood spatter take on a visceral splendour as the murders prove to have a kind of primordial connection to the environment.

Fuller’s skill as a writer is on show too, crafting FBI criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) into less of a lawman and more of a brilliant, Aspergers-suffering academic. He has an enhanced imagination and the ability to feel “pure empathy”, thereby allowing him to mentally recreate crimes — scenes which are marked by a lovely visual curlicue — and place himself in the shoes of killers.

Mads Mikkelsen takes on the enviable task of portraying Dr. Lecter, portraying the good doctor as an unnervingly cold but dashing aesthete with panache worthy of a Cannes Best Actor-winner. Laurence Fishburne also appears as Graham’s boss Dr. Jack Crawford, with Gillian Anderson, Molly Shannon, Eddie Izzard and Ellen Muth joining in either guest or recurring roles throughout the thirteen episode season.

It’s another bold experiment for NBC after the cancellation of the similarly cable-appropriate Awake. Hopefully Hannibal can remain stable and make it to another season because it’s clear that Fuller has big plans. The pilot isn’t perfect — it is muddled at times — but I can’t imagine it not improving with such solid groundwork. This is a must-see — Channel 7 have indicated it will premiere sometime before July but by that time the first season will already be over. Give this one as many eyeballs as possible. It’s what Hannibal would want.

How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)

This new ABC comedy premiered in the plum post-Modern Family slot on Wednesday nights to pretty solid ratings considering the multiple-Emmy-stealing mockumentary series has slipped a bit itself (shocking that viewers might tire of static characters and oddly backward sexual politics!). It’s something of a good fit, in that it’s another uninteresting take on how wacky families can be.

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The show is as unwieldy as its title. There are, however, flashes of good in it but it’s mostly outright bad. It follows Polly (Sarah Chalke, Scrubs) who divorces her husband and moves in with her mother, Elaine (Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds) and step-dad Max (Brad Garrett, Everybody Loves Raymond), along with her young daughter, Natalie. Hijinks ensue.

The cast is good – Chalke and Perkins have good chemistry, and if Garrett annoyed you in Raymond he won’t here. But the whole pilot feels inert, misshapen and quite unfunny. Polly goes on a date but doesn’t want Natalie to know she’s dating post-divorce, and thinks her mother will accuse her of hypocrisy after Polly called her a slut when she did the same (doesn’t Polly sound lovely?). It’s all very stock sitcom stuff. But hey, generic stuff often works, and if the show continues to be successful it’ll be no surprise.

But should you watch it? I’m going with no. There’s just so little — Chalke and Perkins aside — that exhibits much promise. Most moments are predictable, laughs are nearly non-existent, and characters are forcedly over-the-top. Wires & Lights will keep an eye on this one for you, and you’ll hear about it again if we feel you need to. Instead, you should go watch the similarly-premised, vastly superior Ben & Kate and let its joy seep into your very bones.

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