Why they're making Clarice and not Hannibal season 4

Abby Robinson
Photo credit: NBC/Brooke Palmer - Getty Images

From Digital Spy

Fans of Bryan Fuller's Hannibal have longed for the thriller to return after it was cancelled back in 2015.

"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," said NBC in a statement, pulling the plug after just three seasons.

Low viewership figures were cited as the deciding factor – Fuller himself referred to them as "Cancellation Bear Chow ratings" – with the 4.3 million debut figure dropping to 2.4 million for the season two finale, and then again to 1.7 million for season three's second episode.

Photo credit: NBC/Brooke Palmer - Getty Images

Executive producer Martha De Laurentiis later suggested that the numbers weren't actually as disappointing as they appeared, pointing the figure at illegal streaming.

"It wasn't much of a leap to connect its fate with the fact that the show was ranked as the fifth-most illegally downloaded show in 2013," she wrote for The Hill.

"Did pirates kill Hannibal? Unfortunately, that is a cliffhanger that might last for a while. With more than two million viewers watching our show illegally, it's hard not to think online pirates were, at the very least, partly responsible for hundreds of crew members losing their jobs and millions of fans – who watched the show legitimately – mourning the loss of a beloved program."

But despite that door closing, Fuller appeared confident that people hadn't seen the last of Mads Mikkelsen's Hannibal Lecter.

"Hannibal is finishing its last course at NBC's table this summer, but a hungry cannibal can always dine again," he said in a statement.

Photo credit: NBC/Brooke Palmer - Getty Images

We're now more than three years on and season four has yet to materialise. But another series, inspired by Thomas Harris's original source material, has been given the green light.

Star Trek: Discovery producers Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet are writing and exec producing Clarice. It will, of course, follow Clarice Starling, who was played by Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs alongside Anthony Hopkins (and by Julianne Moore in the film version of Hannibal, also alongside Hopkins).

According to Deadline, the CBS show will be "set in 1993, a year after the events of The Silence of the Lambs", with the protagonist on the hunt for "serial murderers and sexual predators while navigating the high-stakes political world of Washington, DC".

Hannibal Lecter "is not expected" to feature.

Photo credit: Universal

Deadline added that the pilot, which has already been written, will be filmed "before a series order decision is made". But "there is a lot of enthusiasm for the title... at the network".

"After more than 20 years of silence, we're privileged to give voice to one of America's most enduring heroes – Clarice Starling," Kurtzman and Lumet said in a statement.

"Clarice's bravery and complexity have always lit the way, even as her personal story remained in the dark. But hers is the very story we need today: her struggle, her resilience, her victory. Her time is now, and always."

Photo credit: Orion Pictures

The news, as you'd expect, did not go down well with Hannibal fans, who took to Twitter – #SaveHannibal – to demand that Fuller's story be renewed for season four.

But it's not that simple.

In response to the announcement, journalist Brian Tallerico said that Fuller had previously told him that "the next season of Hannibal was about to incorporate Clarice/Silence", before adding "that may have changed over the course of season three (I think the last time we talked was as it was premiering)."

Chatting previously to Digital Spy, Fuller said: "Clarice is such a special character and a very iconic one, both from the literature and especially, in terms of pop culture, from Jodie Foster's fantastic performance [in the 1991 film adaptation].

"So it would be great to fold her into the Hannibal omelette, but time will tell."

Fuller later tweeted that while he wanted Clarice in his series, he couldn't get his hands on the rights to her character, which remain with Silence of the Lambs studio MGM.

"Martha & I tried many times to work with MGM to include Clarice into our Hannibal story," he wrote. "They ultimately told us they had their own plans for Clarice and they didn't need Hannibal to tell her story.

"Don't think this impacts a potential #HANNIBAL S4 as we never had Clarice rights."

Hannibal is based on Harris's novel Red Dragon, but MGM owns the rights to the Silence of the Lambs and decided to go with CBS and Kurtzman's production company Secret Hideout on this occasion.

The company also previously decided to give the Clarice rights to Lifetime for a different TV series, but that didn't go ahead.

Not only does that rule out the use of Clarice in Fuller's work, it also means that he can't incorporate the likes of Jame Gumb/"Buffalo Bill", which he was reportedly considering, or Hannibal's orderly Barney Matthews.

As a workaround, season two's Matthew Brown was supposedly based on the latter.

Photo credit: NBC/Brooke Palmer - Getty Images

So, does that mean more Hannibal is completely off the table, as it were?

Fuller expressed his desire to revisit the series when he was asked about its future by a fan on Twitter last year, before going on to say that no one has expressed an interest.

"No one has given up!" he wrote. "I've made it clear I want to do it, the cast wants to do it and Martha wants to do it. We just need a network or a streaming service that wants to do it, too.

"I don't feel there's a clock on it or an expiration date for the idea. We just need someone to bite."

But with CBS seemingly all systems go on Clarice, coupled with Hannibal's lacklustre ratings, we wouldn't expect a fourth chapter anytime soon.

Digital Spy now has a newsletter – sign up to get it sent straight to your inbox.

Want up-to-the-minute entertainment news and features? Just hit 'Like' on our Digital Spy Facebook page and 'Follow' on our @digitalspy Instagram and Twitter accounts.

You Might Also Like