Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Missed Course With the Cannibal

Anyone out there keeping up with "Hannibal"?

You may have heard that NBC decided that after the events of Newtown and the Boston bombings last week, that they were going to pull the fourth episode of "Hannibal," titled "Œuf," (French for "egg") because of potentially sensitive subject matter involving young children and violence. The parts of the episode that were important to ongoing storylines have instead been edited down into a series of webisodes that are being released online. However, the full episode will air unedited outside of the United States and Canada, and will probably be released on home media sometime in the future.

First things first. Good for NBC for doing the responsible thing and exercising some caution and restraint. And yet, on some level I find myself perturbed by this decision. I understand why you wouldn't want people stumbling across an episode like this on broadcast television. Even in the 10 PM hour with special warning screens and the harshest possible TV ratings slapped on it, there are certain concepts and ideas that really are a little too much to let loose on the general public. "Hannibal" has pushed the envelope a few times already, and it's no surprise that the network wants to tread more carefully. Cable probably could have gotten away with it. Premium cable wouldn't even have blinked. However, "Hannibal" is airing on NBC, and it's a national broadcast network where there are much more stringent content rules applied because it's so much more accessible.

However, I really want to see this episode in its entirety. I really, really want to see it. NBC went ahead and aired the promo for "Œuf" at the end of last week's episode, and it teased some of the most arresting imagery in the show since the pilot episode, including one shot of a crime scene that appears to be directly referencing some of the more horrific visuals from "Silence of the Lambs." Having sat through more than my share of horror movies, I know exactly what I'm getting myself into and I have no concerns that the content is going to be too much for me. The existence of the webisodes alleviate some of my concerns about missing important continuity before the next episode airs, but I'd still love to get my hands on the full episode.

If you tell me I can't watch something, my inner five-year-old just wants to see it more. Moreover, I can't help but feel like I'm being penalized for someone else's sensitivities, even though I certainly understand and respect those sensitivities. It's like that time in one of my high school English class where we weren't allowed to finish watching the Steve Martin comedy "Roxanne" (we were reading "Cyrano de Bergerac") because somebody anonymously complained to the teacher that the crude humor was too much for them. I understood the concern, but I still wanted to watch the movie. It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't know I was missing out, and if I weren't already anticipating the episode. Unfortunately I do and I am, so I can't help stewing about it.

If some of the comments I've been seeing around the internet are any indication, I'm not alone in this. There are a lot of people who are taking an interest. So I'm very surprised that NBC isn't offering the full episode on the internet in any form to American viewers. I'd gladly pay my three bucks for a digital download from Amazon or iTunes. I usually watch "Hannibal" online anyway, because Thursdays nights are so crowded. NBC wouldn't have to worry so much about propriety, because requiring payment would keep the wrong people from stumbling across the episode accidentally, and I wouldn't be surprised if NBC didn't make a few extra bucks from the increased interest that pulling "Œuf" has drummed up in the last week.

Alas, so far no dice. It's probably only a matter of time before it shows up somewhere though. Networks have pulled plenty of television episodes before in plenty of different contexts, and they've always come back eventually. I remember the "X-Files" episode "Home," which had graphic content and a really disturbing incest angle, got pulled from reruns for a couple of years after its first broadcast, and then came back with ads trumpeting its notoriety. And do you recall the third season finale of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" getting delayed for two months because of the Columbine shootings?

So, this is really only a matter of inconvenience for "Hannibal" fans and I just have to have a little patience. Besides there's plenty to look forward to - tonight's episode will be the first of several directed by Oscar-winning cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, best known for his work with Guillermo Del Toro. And it also means we're one week closer to the season's endgame too.

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