NBC’s “Hannibal” was basically a gift from above for horror fans. It had everything we could’ve wanted from such an offering. It was brilliantly acted, featured a rich and intricate storyline, had terrifying music, and some of the most gorgeous yet utterly horrifying bursts of gore and death. It treated the genre with a respect that is rarely seen and even more rarely cultivated. Unfortunately, while “Hannibal” gave us a glimpse of something pure and wonderful, its lifespan was cut short after a mere three seasons, well before the series was set to enter the realm of Clarice Starling and her journey that was originally seen in The Silence of the Lambs, an arc that has a great deal of personal meaning to many lovers of author Thomas Harris’ works.
The question still remains: Why? How could a show that gave us everything we theoretically wanted ultimately fare so poorly? Was it the timeslot? I don’t think so, as NBC made the episodes available to watch the day after it aired. Was it that it was too highbrow? I won’t lie and tell you I understood everything when first presented. Often times I had to rewatch episodes to fully grasp what was going on and to understand the subtleties at play. However, with a show that entertaining and exhilarating, I find myself not really buying that it was “too much”. Could it have been the gore and intense visuals? For horror fans, absolutely not. For the general public, maybe?
But another angle comes from show executive producer Martha De Laurentiis herself, who has penned an op ed on The Hill that tackles “Hannibal” and its cancellation, citing online piracy as one of the main culprits:
When NBC decided not to renew “Hannibal” for a fourth season — a show on which I served as executive producer — 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. When nearly one-third of the audience for “Hannibal” is coming from pirated sites — despite the fact that a legitimate download for each episode was available the following day — you don’t have to know calculus to do the math. If a show is stolen, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to fairly compensate a crew and keep a series in production.
De Laurentiis also writes something incredibly important, something that many people often overlook:
Only so many names can fit onto a marquee, film poster, TV show’s credits or in a movie’s trailer. Maybe the millions of people who illegally download movies and TV shows are thinking only of the top-billed stars, excusing their actions with the notion that one viewing will not do much harm to a superstar.
But on a set, every last crew member and creative — right down to the person who designed that poster or edited that trailer — is affected if the fruits of their labor are stolen.
Did pirates kill “Hannibal”? Unfortunately, that is a cliffhanger that might last for a while. With more than 2 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.
She ends with a solemn promise, one that she will be tackling when she appears at the Meet the Producers event, which takes place on Capitol Hill:
As I said, this isn’t just about me. This is about the livelihoods of thousands upon thousands of hardworking people who help enrich the lives of millions of fans of films and TV shows. When the plundering is done, even the pirates will have nothing left to watch, let alone steal. That is a dark future I will do my best — as a producer and a fan — to make sure never arrives at a laptop near you.
I know that torrenting and online streaming are topics of hot debate here, so I ask you all to weigh in with your thoughts below. As always, I hope things are kept civil as a rational and logical discourse is what is needed to truly decide where to take this situation.