• Worst TV Show of the Week: Hannibal on NBC

    by  • June 18, 2015 • Misrated, Violence, Worst of the Week • 3 Comments

    HannibalFor ultra-graphic gore inappropriate for a mass audience, the Thursday, June 11th episode of NBC’s Hannibal (10:00 p.m. ET) is the Worst TV Show of the Week.

    It is sometimes difficult to believe the devolution that has occurred on American television. Once a place where entertainment appropriate for the entire  family flourished, today TV is choked with sex addicts and murderous serial killers. Where once TV was considered a “guest in the home,” today it’s more like an escaped convict kicking in a window, staging a home invasion, and grabbing the viewer by the throat.

    What else can be said about a program that airs at 9 in the evening (Central/Mountain), is rated appropriate for 14 year old children…and is about a  murderer who dismembers his victims, then cooks and eats their bodies?

    Such an attitude was certainly present in last week’s episode of Hannibal, an entire prime-time TV show based on Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter, a brilliant genius who also just happens to be a murderer who consumes his victims. Apparently, those who select programming for NBC believe there’s absolutely nobody in the world more worthy of being glorified on television than a cannibalistic serial killer.

    Over the course of the episode, viewers had the dubious pleasure of being exposed to repeated scenes of alleged protagonist Will Graham being stabbed, and his friend Abigail having her throat lovingly slit, both by Hannibal. Naturally, blood is shown gushing profusely from both wounds. Later in the episode, Will has a flashback in which he recalls being carried out by paramedics with blood on his face, as he looks at Abigail’s dead body next to him. Then, doctors operate on Will as they clean the blood off Abigail’s corpse.

    Viewers also get to see repeatedly the corpse of a victim Hannibal has murdered, by flaying the person alive. Hannibal then strings the corpse up in a chapel, and allows the victim’s blood to drip onto the chapel floor. Later, as Will has one of his “visions,” a extreme close-ups of the flayed corpse are shown.

    This episode of Hannibal was rated TV-14 V. Apparently, NBC feels gory murders and throat-slitting are ideal viewing for young teens. But Americans don’t appear to agree: according to the ratings publication The Wrap, last Thursday night, NBC was in fifth place in ratings (behind even Univision)…and Hannibal dropped 29% from the previous week’s premiere, with only 1.7 million people watching, barely more than a low-grade cable series.

    Clearly, Americans are weary of murderous mayhem and graphic gore; but just as clearly, NBC is enamored of it. So long as the networks continue to push the programming they’re interested in, rather than that which viewers want, programs like NBC’s Hannibal will continue to be the Worst TV Show of the Week.



    Christopher Gildemeister is the PTC’s Head of Research Operations. He began as an Entertainment Analyst at the PTC in 2005. From 2007-2016, he was Senior Writer/Editor, responsible for communicating the PTC’s message to the public through newsletters, columns, and the PTC Watchdog blog. Dr. Gildemeister holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

    3 Responses to Worst TV Show of the Week: Hannibal on NBC

    1. brandon
      July 18, 2015 at 11:37 pm

      Well apparently 1.7 million Americans want it. Which that’s not even counting the people who pirated it. You got to remember not every person in this country likes family television. Some like dark or violent shows like Hannibal while others like family shows like Duck Dynasty. Television should have both so that everybody gets what they want.

      Also, “devolution” Hannibal is one of the best put together TV series I have seen in a long time. It is the closest I have seen television actually becoming cinematic. The actors do a fantastic job, the character development is extremely well done especially Will Graham’s evolution, the dialogue is amazingly well written especially the one on one scenes with Hannibal & Will, the story is well put together and keeps you interested on what’s going to happen next, and lastly the cinematography and visuals are gorgeous and beautiful especially some of the more symbolic visuals. The one thing I do agree with is the gratuitous gore is the weakest part of the show. The gore often adds nothing to the story and most of the time it just feels like something the network wanted to put in for shock value. The only time I think the gore is important to the show is if the gore is being used in some kind of symbolic fashion or if it’s critical to the story, otherwise it just feels unnecessary.

      Yes Hannibal is a murderous cannibal, but he’s the villain of course the villain is going to do bad things otherwise he wouldn’t be the villain. Everyone who watches the show knows he’s the villain and knows what he’s doing is evil and wrong. Actually the show does a great job of making you truly despise the character and you want see Hannibal fail. No one who watches this show relates themselves to Hannibal except maybe a warped individual, the people who watch this show relate themselves to Will Graham the hero (a damaged hero, but still a hero.) Yes the network’s marketing focuses to much on the Hannibal aspect but that’s not the shows fault, it’s not the show crews fault, it’s the fault of the idiotic marketing department. So no I don’t see Hannibal as a devolution of network television, yes it has its faults but I still see it as an evolution it has production values that other network shows should aspire to

      • Christopher Gildemeister
        September 30, 2015 at 4:08 pm


        If you’re being honest, you’d have to admit that television today (particularly scripted drama and comedy) has far, FAR more “dark or violent shows like Hannibal” than it does programming safe for families.

        Despite your rhetoric, we’re not demanding that everything be family-friendly. But I challenge you to find ANYTHING even on prime-time, broadcast TV that IS family-friendly. When a program like Scream Queens is shown on the public airwaves at 7 p.m. Central/Mountain, it is clear there’s a lot more “dark violence” than there is family-friendly content.

        You praise Hannibal for being “cinematic.” This is ironic, since one would normally think that for something cinematic, one should go to a cinema — a place where you have to deliberately choose to pay to see graphic, mature content…not have it forced into your living room on the airwaves you yourselves own. The fact that a program is well-filmed, acted, etc. does not alter the fact that the content is harmful. What a pity that the production values you laud can’t be used in the service of something more uplifting than a show about a murderer who eats his victim’s corpses.

        And as a student of film, you well known that Hollywood was capable of showing even the vilest villainy for the overwhelming majority of the 20th century without indulging in graphic gore. It is perfectly possible to show a compelling villain without showing graphic gore. And the “idiotic marketing department” couldn’t advertise the gore if it wasn’t put there by the writers and filmmakers in the first place.

    2. Julie
      June 19, 2015 at 5:28 pm

      Thanks for writing these “worst shows” columns every week! They are real eye-openers. When I first started reading them I assumed the shows were rated TV-MA by the Hollywood folks, but I was shocked to learn most of them are TV-14 (and even TV-PG in some cases, with no content descriptors)! It has really made me evaluate the content of shows allowed on TV in my household, and made me question those ratings. Also alerted me to the worst offender shows. I used to assume a TV-14 program was pretty safe for everyone 14+ (and maybe even pre-teens), but certainly not anymore. I’ve even found myself (a 34 year old) being offended recently by TV-14 content. Even TV-PG shows aren’t always safe for families.

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