By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com February 15, 2012 at 10:38AM
25 years after his first big-screen appearance, embodied by Brian Cox in Michael Mann's 1986 film "Manhunter," Thomas Harris' highly educated serial killer Hannibal Lecter has entered the pantheon of famous movie monsters, thanks to four further movies: the Oscar-winning "The Silence of the Lambs," Ridley Scott's "Hannibal," the "Manhunter" remake "Red Dragon" (all of which saw Anthony Hopkins as Lecter), and the instantly forgotten prequel "Hannibal Rising," in which French actor Gaspard Ulliel took up the part. That film might have killed any hope of any more movies for the moment, but we're about to see a lot more of Mr. Lecter...on the small screen.
EW reports that NBC has taken the unusual step of skipping the pilot stage and ordering thirteen episodes of "Hannibal," a one-hour drama series that will follow both Lecter and his FBI agent counterpart Will Graham (played by William Petersen in "Manhunter" and Edward Norton in "Red Dragon"). The show is penned by TV veteran Bryan Fuller ("Wonderfalls," "Pushing Daisies"), who's also working on the "Munsters" TV reboot with Bryan Singer, and going straight to series (which rarely happens with network TV) suggests that NBC is feeling confident about the prospects of the show. Either that, or the belaguered network is hoping that the brand name will make the show a home-run hit.
Clearly, it's going to be some sort of weekly procedural, with Lecter helping Graham track down a serial-killer-of-the-week, and lord knows that those shows are successful enough. Hopefully the very talented Fuller is able to bring something new to the table, and finds a way to keep the darkness and gore without the show being gutted by Standards & Practice. Even then, it's far from a home-run -- NBC acquired the full run of another movie-to-TV transition, "The Firm," and the show helped push the network into eighth place in that time slot -- it's now being burned off on Saturday nights. No casting has been announced yet, but middle-aged British character actors should form an orderly queue outside 30 Rock (our pick would be Jason Isaacs, but he's got another show, "Awake," debuting next month, although few think it'll last after this season).
In other TV news, NBC's desperate search for a hit continues with "Downwardly Mobile," which marks the return of one-time sitcom queen Roseanne Barr, who's been out of the limelight for fifteen-odd years since "Roseanne" ended in 1997. The show is created by Barr, boyfriend John Argent and Eric Gililand (who was an exec on "Roseanne"), and will see the comedian play the owner of a trailer park. But most intriguingly, the show will, according to Deadline, see Barr reunited with her one-time screen husband, film star John Goodman, who's in final negotiations to play a friend of Barr's character, who works at the park. Goodman's made a habit of mixing TV and film work in recent years, with stints on "Treme," "Damages" and "Community" of late, but this would mark his first regular sitcom role since the short-lived "Center Of The Universe" in 2004. It's a smart move, as Barr and Goodman's chemistry was a big part of what made "Roseanne" a classic, but time will tell if it gets recaptured here.
Finally, director Michael Sucsy, previously best known for HBO's "Grey Gardens," is having a good week, as his big-screen debut "The Vow" opened with a whopping $40 million weekend. We're sure he'll be offered plenty of film gigs shortly, but in the meantime, Deadline reports that he's struck a deal to helm the pilot for "Scruples," a new drama at ABC produced by Natalie Portman. The show is based on the 1978 novel by Judith Krantz of the same name, and follows the rise of a rich and powerful fashion designer, continuing the soap revival unleashed by this year's hit "Revenge." The script comes from Bob Brush ("The Wonder Years") and former "thirtysomething" star Mel Harris.