What To Watch: Hannibal

Photo courtesy of NBC.

Photo courtesy of NBC.

Warning: What follows is the opinion of a madman.

Disclaimer before I rant about Emmy Nominations: I don’t know much about the current state of TV. I don’t know if the latest season of Mad Men was as iffy as people say or if American Horror Story: Asylum deserves 17 nominations (unless they are all for its ridiculous name). I hear House of Cards is hot shit and that watching Hal from Malcolm in the Middle cook meth is akin to the Second Coming. But I do know one thing: I really like Hannibal and it didn’t get any nominations. If it did, maybe TV would be better for it.

Perhaps I was mistaken to assume that shows I like must deserve awards. For example, I also watch Bones occasionally, which didn’t get any nominations. Yet in that case and many others, it doesn’t bother me. As much as I love it and its satisfying formula, it’s not an example of excellent TV. It’s pretty good TV, like a rerun of Home Improvement on TBS. Furthermore, it would seem no one’s preferences really matter; NCIS is the most watched show in America and it netted 0 noms. Mark Harmon don’t give a fuck when he got 20+ million watching him do the same thing each week. So if the Emmy’s are immune to preferences, what do they use as criteria?

Reviews, possibly. Many of the nominees are of course well received, innovative shows. Still, Entertainment Weekly gave Hannibal’s premiere season an A- and IGN an equal 9.0 and yet no dice. That’s not to say that the show didn’t have its detractors. Mike Hale of the New York Times called it “fatally slow and pretentious” and he’s probably right. But, like everyone else with eyes and ears he warmed to the “superior production values” and “stylish” nature of the the show. It’s in the categories of Art Direction and Cinematography that the show truly earns its praise. Each frame is filled with carefully calculated colors, lines and movement. I think that is true excellence, but excellence no longer fully determines an Emmy.

No, in a time when the future of TV lies in cable and the internet (Amazon is now producing original TV like Netflix, gee-whiz!) awarding Emmy’s isn’t just about excellence; its about business. Netflix is busy patting itself on the back for House of Cards critical success. Whatever rise in revenue they got, the cred is invaluable. They recently passed HBO for the most subscribers and in five years they’ll probably double them if they keep it up.

The Netflix business formula: Good shows = lots of subscribers = more good shows, etc.

Hannibal is on network television, so they don’t have subscribers, but they need strong ratings to survive.

Network TV formula: Make (mostly) bad shows  = lose viewers = cry.

Perhaps, though: Award rare good shows = make more good shows = more views = make more good shows, etc. A solid business model.

I won’t argue that giving Hannibal an Emmy is going to turn the tide of TV’s future. Nor do I care if network TV survives. As a viewer, it’s just my job to enjoy and when I enjoy something, regardless of if it’s on NBC of Netflix, I’m happy. In the off chance that giving Hannibal an award simply for its daring existence spurns the creation of better network television, though, the consumer in me is pleased. I’d love to see ABC’s new fall comedy be as surreal as Wilfred or Fox’s primetime drama as gut-wrenching as Homeland. Wouldn’t you?

I imagine a future where network TV is competitive with HBO and Netflix for its excellence, instead of being content with NCIS. Until then, I guess I’ll watch Hannibal until its inevitable cancellation.

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