Hannibal Double Take

Blood, guts and five-star cuisine are abundant in NBC’s new series “Hannibal,” and surprisingly, they mix incredibly well.

With the end of fan-favorite shows “The Office” and “30 Rock,” it would seem natural that NBC’s next cult-following hit would be something akin to the humorous half-hour sitcoms.

Admittedly, “Hannibal” may not appeal to all who wait eagerly for the next Dwight Schrute, but the show’s quality storytelling and cinematic-level visuals will undoubtedly draw a loyal fan base.

Based on the characters and elements of Thomas Harris’s best-selling novel “Red Dragon,” “Hannibal” follows the relationship between FBI special investigator Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), which develops over the course of various murder investigations and psychiatric sessions.

Will is highly talented at entering the minds of serial killers and exercising great empathy in order to make unusual observations and correctly guess motives. This gift comes with a price, however, as forcing himself to inhabit the mindset of murders causes great strain on Will’s mental well-being, and he chooses to quit field work to lecture FBI trainees at the headquarters.

A chain of grisly murders leads his boss, Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishburne) to call Will back out into the field for assistance. In order to make sure Will doesn’t lose his mind, Crawford employs Dr. Lecter at the behest of his colleague Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) and requires Will to attend therapy sessions.

Lecter takes a deep interest in Will’s abilities, and eventually becomes involved with FBI in their cases, as Will divulges his feelings on the horrifying scenarios he must embody.

The show is developed, produced and written by Bryan Fuller, perhaps best known for being behind the unfortunately short-lived “Wonderfalls” and “Pushing Daisies.”

Unlike many other shows on network television, the strength of Fuller’s pilot script prompted NBC to immediately order 13 full episodes for “Hannibal’s” first season.

The format and quality of “Hannibal” are quite similar, if not equivalent to serials shown on cable. Instead of the usual “Law & Order” style of featuring a new killer every week, “Hannibal” chooses to focus on Will and Lecter’s pivotal first collaboration, and the effects it has on the pair.

Of course, the audience already knows what Lecter is and what he will become, and this only adds to the suspense.

The visuals on the show are astounding and perhaps unmatched by any other series currently on network TV. Richly detailed sets, artistic close-ups and spine-chilling music are highly reminiscent of Kubrick and Hitchcock.

Fuller’s creativity comes into full play in the murders on the show — there’s no shortage of gore, and they are definitely not for the weak of heart. Most compelling, however, are the characters with which we are introduced.

The dynamic between Will and Lecter is fraught with equal parts fear and fascination. Dancy plays Will with the perfect balance of emotional weariness to evoke sympathy, but also a slight hysteric edge to indicate a threat, as his lines between reality and imagination begin to blur.

The standout, however, is Mikkelsen’s Lecter. His interpretation of Hannibal differs radically from the more popular Anthony Hopkins portrayal. A cultured, renowned physician, Lecter’s quiet sophistication and cool demeanor are nerve-wracking. His penchant for inviting guests to eat meticulously self-prepared meals is perhaps most startling of all — is he feeding them what we think he’s feeding them, and will they ever catch on?

Though “Hannibal” may illicit gasps of horror and possibly even loss of appetite, this is a show that really should be watched. With the lights on, of course.