"Hannibal" and Hypocrites

Written by PTC | Published July 15, 2014

Every time anybody criticizes the sexual and violent content so prevalent in the entertainment industry, the consistent refrain from nbclogoHollywood is that it’s “all about the money,” or network executives simply “give the public what it wants to see.” At the PTC, we spend a good bit of effort detailing how the market for non-offensive material dwarfs the potential audience for more explicit fare. Every so often though, a network executive will (accidentally?) tell the truth about how content decisions are made. Bob Greenblatt, NBC’s entertainment chairman, appeared at the Television Critics Association summer press tour panel with a lot to say about what to expect out of NBC for the foreseeable future. My colleague, Melissa Henson, reported to you yesterday about NBC’s would-be plans to drop more F-bombs on its audience. As if that weren’t indefensible enough, Greenblatt went on to discuss Hannibal - an ultra-violent program that we’ve been forced to criticize before. Simply put, Hannibal is among the most sinister, most violent programs ever developed for television. And Greenblatt wants more of the same – despite admitting that the “dark and subversive” nature of the program limits its audience!
Among the shows the Emmys snubbed was “Hannibal,” a series with cable panache and good reviews to match. But it hasn't earned strong ratings, and its graphic portrayals of elaborate murders may be one reason why. “‘Hannibal’ is, and I think most people in this room would agree, one of the best shows we have creatively and one of the best-reviewed shows this network has had since I've been here, and we still struggle to find an audience for it,” Greenblatt said. “It's great, we're keeping it going,” he added. “The minute you try to do something that is dark and subversive and frightening and gets into that territory, you start to peel away the mass audience.” “And they just pitched the next season and it blew us away,” added NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke.
It’s worth noting that the ratings for Hannibal are subpar, and even softer this season than last, but that didn’t prevent Greenblatt and NBC from renewing it anyway. So which is it, Hollywood? Do you just “respond to the audience,” or does your desire to be “dark and subversive” actually outweigh your desire for good ratings? Sadly for parents and families, you’ve already answered that question. Any reasonable and responsible business decision would lead Greenblatt to cancel Hannibal and replace it with something that appeals to a broader audience.

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