Monday, April 29, 2013

Deja Vu - How I Met Your Mother & Castle

So, I love both of these shows ... have from day one.  Both have amazing casts, terrific storylines, both stand-alones and season long arcs, both are funny as hell (though Castle, being an hour-long crime drama as well, does touch on the serious more often).

But tonight I had a HUGE moment of deja vu watching HIMYM ... 


On How I Met Your Mother, it was the night of Barney's (Neil Patrick Harris) "Bro Mitzvah" - a.k.a. his bachelor party.  He had put his friends - Lily (Alyson Hannigan), Marshall (Jason Segal), Ted (Josh Radnor) and fiancee Robin (Cobie Smolders) - on alert that he expected the most LEGENDARY night of his life, completing the demand with a list of criteria they were expected to meet, including such items as booze (duh), cigars (duh), strippers (duh), a moment where they fear for their lives, mind-blowing entertainment and a visit by the Karate Kid - no, not Ralph Macchio ... to Barney, Ralph was the ENEMY.  No, the TRUE Karate Kid to Barney was William Zabka, who played villain-to-everyone-else Johnny.

At the same time, he left Robin to endure dinner with his mother (Frances Conroy) alone, which was disastrous from the start.  Or so it seemed ...

See, the group had quite the dilemma:  how do you make a night memorable for a guy who makes every night the best night of his life?  Robin had the answer - give him the worst night of his life.  And so "The Barney" was born (only fair, since Barney put Robin through hell for weeks leading up to his proposal).

So Barney was treated to a bad Atlantic City hotel room, a clown for entertainment, ex-fiancee Quinn (Becki Newton) as his stripper, Chinese mobsters to whom Barney supposedly sold Marshall for $80,000, and an appearance by ... you guessed it ... Ralph Macchio.

Robin then confronted Barney about her horrible night and called off the engagement.  Barney, at rock bottom, was dragged back to his apartment by the mobsters, who joined the whole gang in yelling "Surprise!" to the stunned Barney, who then proceeded to run down the hell of the night and disbelief about how they could do that to him ... before saying it was AWESOME!

It was a great ruse and a fun episode.  But I couldn't help but think back to a few weeks ago ...

See, recently Castle did an episode that was a tribute to Rear Window, with Castle (Nathan Fillion) stuck in a wheelchair with a broken leg.  After depleting every possible amusement withing reach, he resorted to people-watching through binoculars.  It was then he happened to witness a murder in the building across the street.  He did everything he could to get girlfriend and police detective Beckett (Stana Katic) to believe him, growing more and more frustrated that no evidence was found, no body and no one believing him.  He even roped daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn) in, having her watch his back as he broke into the suspect's apartment. 

Finally, after ruining a glamorous, romantic evening Beckett had planned to celebrate his birthday, Castle drove her to go over and confront the killer.  As Castle watched through the binoculars, he saw Beckett get attacked by the man.  Castle and pal detectives Ryan and Esposito (Seamus Dever and Jon Huertas) raced to save her.  As they burst into the room, Castle was greeted with a hearty "Surprise!" as Beckett laid out exactly how she had roped everyone in to create the mystery just for her man.  Castle, too, looked to be incredibly upset and Beckett was worried she had screwed up ... until Castle declared it the best birthday ever!

See what I mean?  I almost wanted to see if the same person had written both episodes, cause they were damn similar, don't you think?  Doesn't mean I enjoyed either any less because I didn't.  And both played out very and believably well - I personally didn't see either twist coming (HIMYM revealed their half-way through the ep and continued with us in the know, Castle saved it to the end, stringing us along to be surprised right along with him). 

But definitely deju vu to the nth degree. 

Catch How I Met Your Mother Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBS.

Catch Castle Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Show Excursions for This Week

Welcome to May, a.k.a SWEEPS!  TV's gonna get real good real fast!  So what's good for this week?


Bachelor Party High-Five!  Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) is ready to take on this legen ... wait for it ... dary pre-wedding tradition for the groom, and stopping by to help are guest stars Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under, American Horror Story) and Ralph Macchio (The Karate Kid).  How I Met Your Mother airs at 8 p.m. on CBS.

The Talk's Aisha Tyler is guest starring as an ambitious reporter looking to get the inside story about the Five-0 team.  Episode is shot a part documentary-style, so should make for one hell of a ride! Hawaii Five-0 airs at 10 p.m. on CBS. 


Castiel (Misha Collins) is back!  Need I say more? Okay, the hunt for prophet Kevin (Osric Chau) to learn about Sam's third and final trial ... if he lives long enough to complete it.  Awesome angst and bro-ments!  Supernatural airs at 9 p.m. on the CW.


Sons of Anarchy's Katey Sagal is making an appearance as Artie's (Kevin McHale) mother in an episode that will feature the music of legend Stevie Wonder.  Glee airs at 9 p.m. on FOX.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Review - The Originals (unofficial pilot)

It's quite common for future spin-offs to be introduced via an isolated episode of the show they're branching off from, and so it is with next fall's The Originals, spinning off from the hit CW series The Vampire Diaries, now in its fifth season.

I admit I was not a TVD fan right from the start. I actually resented it a lot because I felt the CW spent so much time and money promoting its premiere and whole season, consequently neglecting my beloved Supernatural, which was going into its fourth season and desperately needed promotion, since it had barely escaped cancellation and was very much a "bubble" show (in very great danger of not being renewed again). 

But after the net aired the first 10 episodes in a week where I had nothing else to watch, I gave it a chance -  and got hooked.  It is a very strong, fast-moving show with good acting, lots of plot lines that progress quickly and episodes that feature so much - everything - it's hard to believe they don't burn out of stories half-way through a season.

It's only natural, then, that such a show - one with so many strong characters to choose from - would be ripe to "sire" a spin-off (hey, had to use a vampire reference here, didn't I?).  And an obvious choice would be vampire trio Klaus (Joseph Morgan), Elijah (Daniel Gillies) and Rebekah (Claire Holt), a.k.a. the Originals.  TVD has gone to great lengths to establish these characters and their long-standing backstory (between them they probably have over a thousand years of existence and history).  Klaus is a true bad boy, relentless and blood-thirsty, who has made the lives of many of the citizens of Mystic Falls a living hell, particularly new vampire/former good girl Elena (Nina Dobrev) and former Ripper Stefan (Paul Wesley).  But Klaus has also shown a more merciful side from time to time, which has helped make a complex, possibly redeemable man.


Even though TVD has played around this season with a possible romance between Klaus and the sweet Caroline (Candice Accola), it seems a stronger story may be to move his story to New Orleans, a city with a reputation of being a very mysterious, mystical place.  The Originals takes us into the dark underbelly of the city, where witches and vampires thrive.  Klaus is told that one witch in particular is plotting something big against him.  When he arrives, he meets up with brother Elijah, who brings him to a group of supernaturals who have taken it upon themselves to protect Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin, The Secret Circle), a werewolf we met last season on TVD with whom Klaus slept with before she left town to find out more about her family.  Turns out Hayley is pregnant with Klaus' child - a supposed impossibility - and will be killed for it. 

Elijah tells Klaus that this is their chance to have what they've always wanted:  a family.  But Klaus wants none of it ... or does he?  He sure seems not to care, but as we've come to know Klaus, we know he's not all what he seems.  As nemesis Katherine (also played by the talented Dobrev) puts it:

"Klaus won't be able to walk away from this.  He and I are the same:  we manipulate, we thirst for power, we control, we punish, but our actions are driven by one singular place deep inside - we're alone, and we hate it."

Then again, by his own words, Klaus wants to be king and, regarding his child, "every king needs an heir."  So good daddy or bad daddy?  With this complex character, could go either way ... or both. Either way, after tonight episode, it seems we've seen the last of Klaus in Mystic Falls for the rest of TVD's season.  Shame ... didn't really get closure there.

Personally, I would prefer to keep these characters as part of TVD, being that they add so much tastiness to the ongoing storylines.  But I can also see how they have perhaps run their course and need to stretch out on their own and tell a different story.  And this spin-off is made for the CW and will fit right in, especially if they pair it with TVD next season.  New Orleans is definitely a perfect setting, and the three leads are strong enough to hold it on their own.  Guess time will tell.  Fortunately, the CW is really good about giving their new shows time to breathe and develop (no hot-button cancellations here, thankfully in most cases), so look for The Originals to have life for a while in the fall.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Show Excursions for This Week

TV will be getting more and more exciting over the coming weeks as we approach season penultimate and finale episodes.  Here's what I think is worth watching this week:


Admittedly I know very little about this new, six-part series - which asks the question "What happens when you take a man who has been freed from death row and put him back into the world that has tried to shed him for nearly 20 years?" - except that it has an incredible trailer that pulls you right in and it's from the producers of Breaking Bad, one of the most outstanding series in recent years.  Enough to get me to watch.  Rectify premieres at 9 p.m. on Sundance Channel.


Supernatural welcomes back Felicia Day for a third appearance as Charlie Day (possibly channeling her inner Dana Scully Dean Winchester's (Jensen Ackles) Mulder?).  This is a terrific character that Day plays her with gusto and humor and Charlie is actually one of the few female characters that has managed to survive for return visits to the show (It is well-known that rabid female fans of the show do NOT like female guest star characters hoarding the attention of the boys.  Charlie is accepted most likely because she plays for the other team ...). Supernatural airs at 9 p.m. on the CW.


Tonight's episode of The Vampire Diaries is serving as a sort of pilot episode of the CW's new upcoming spin-off The Originals, which will follow the Original vampires - including Klaus (Joseph Morgan), Elijah (Daniel Gillies) and Rebekah (Claire Holt), among others - to New Orleans to tell their own ongoing stories.  If the new show is as compelling and addictive as its "sire" series, I'll definitely be tuning in.  The Vampire Diaries airs at 8 p.m. on the CW.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

TV Tour Guide at Ellen

I finally had the opportunity to attend a taping of the Ellen Degeneres Show with a couple of good friends, and what a great time you have when you go.  Dancing, laughing, great music, Ellen!  Also very tiring! 

There's a reason this show is at the top of talk shows.  Ellen has put together a fantastic production with a top-notch crew that keeps it running like a well-oiled machine.  I didn't see or sense any glitches in the three hours the taping took.  From corralling the crowd and getting us situated in the studio, to warming us up before the show to entertaining us between broadcast breaks, to getting us out, it couldn't have gone smoother for us or for them.

We got to hang out for a while in the famous Riff Raff Room, where they conveniently had lots of Ellen merchandise on sale (smart), and snaked our way through in line prior to entering the actual studio.

Once in the studio, I wish we had had better seats.  We were all the way audience-right and kind of toward the back.  But as you can see, the room isn't that big and there really isn't a bad seat.  We had a pretty straight view to the interview area, and the crane cameras were constantly sweeping over our heads.

I was sure of who our guests were going to be going in:  I was under the impression tapings take place the day before, so since I went on April 17, I checked TiVo for the April 18 show, which will feature Jennifer Aniston, Bryce Dallas Howard and Brittany Snow promoting their new movie Call Me Crazy: A Five Film.  But I was mistaken.  Seems Ellen is pre-taping shows for later in the season for some reason, so ours is for airing on May 23.  She made a fun inside joke about how "it's almost Memorial Day but I swear it feels just like April 17."  Love that when it airs only a group of us will get why that's fiunny.  Our guests instead were Amanda Seyfried, who is promoting her new animated film Epic; comedian and SNL alum Kevin Nealon; and music guest Michael Bolton, promoting his new album.


The show got under way on time and Ellen came through the infamous blue doors and did her monologue, then got us dancing.  It was a much shorter dance, though, and she didn't come through the crowd like she usually does, just went right to her seat.  There was a lot of content in the hour, so I could see why after.

She did her "What's Wrong With These Pictures?" segment and showed some funny web videos, then welcomed Seyfried, who talked about her very close relationship with her dog Finn and how her "assets" (i.e. boobs) diminished after she lost a lot of weight in her young adulthood (yeah, I know, she's only 27, but boy, did she make it seem like that is so old ...).

Nealon had a couple of funny bits - giving away crap from his garage, which he says he's cleaning out to avoid being a hoarder (audience members got an old volleyball, cables for a washer/dryer hookup and a picnic basket).  Then a lucky audience member - the LUCKIEST, actually - got to come up and get a charcoal portrait done by him.  Of course, this led to the classic gag of subtly putting charcoal all over her face (I wondered why all the monitors were off during this ...), but she went with it and got an iPad for her trouble.

Bolton sang "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" with co-artist Kelly Rowland and we were given free CDs.

The tag to the show had Ellen once again bringing charcoal girl up to play a game for a trip to Jamaica.  All she had to do was answer questions about the show while getting bombarded with goop, powder, sand, etc.  Again, she was a good sport, and her enthusiasm and excitement were off the charts, so she won.  Essentially, chick made out like a bandit!

We had a great time, had smiles on the whole time and Ellen expressed her gratitude and appreciation for all the energy and joy she gets from her job every single day.  This lady has one of the best jobs in the world and I'm glad she knows it and makes note of it.

I highly recommend attending this show.  It;s trick getting tickets, but worth it when you finally score them.

Now go go Laugh, Dance, Love!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review - Defiance

Obliterating Earth and delving into the lives of those who survive and live in it afterwards has always been a popular setting for movies (Waterworld, Independence Day, the upcoming Oblivion and After Earth) and TV shows (Earth 2, Battlestar Galactica), so there's nothing really new covered in this new SyFy series, but that doesn't mean it isn't a likeable enough show.  An interesting environment has been created, there's a clever collection of characters - eight different races, to be exact - and fans of sci-fi shows on the whole will find a lot to connect with in Defiance.

It's the year 2046 on a new Earth with all new rules. Over thirty years after various alien races arrived on Earth, the landscape is completely altered, terraformed nearly beyond recognition. To the town of Defiance, formerly St. Louis, comes the mysterious Nolan (Grant Bowler, True Blood, Ugly Betty) and his charge, an Iranthian war orphan named Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas, The Bible, Night & Day). As they settle into town – overseen by the mayor, Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz, Angel, Dexter) and filled with residents like the powerful Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene, Dances With Wolves, The Twilight Saga), enterprising lounge owner Kenya (Mia Kirshner, The Vampire Diaries, The L Word) and the ambitious, alien Tarrs (Tony Curran, 24, Gemini Division, and Jaime Murray, Warehouse 13, Ringer) - events begin to unfold that threaten the fragile peace this border town has fought for.

What's really new about Defiance is that it is making a multi-platform debut:  while events are unfolding weekly on the series, fans can also see how the residents’ struggles impact the game of Defiance.  In other words, for the first time in history, a TV show and a game will exist concurrently in a shared universe, influencing and impacting the other.  But fortunately, you don't need to experience both to enjoy the series.  I, for example, don't have access to or any interest in the game, but I'm under the impression I won't be missing anything - the game will maintain its own separate story, which takes place in San Francisco, but nothing will happen there that will muddle up or make me miss anything that I'll be watching on the show.

As I said, there is nothing exceptionally new here.  In fact, I can name quite a few things just from the pilot that immediately made me think of facets from other shows:

Battlestar Galactica - When BSG finally brought its human refugees to Earth and got them settled, it looked very much like the town of Defiance.   And remember Frak?  This popular made-up word was the equivalent of two of English's most popular cusses ("Who the frak are you?"  "Oh frak!").  Defiance, which features many different languages (thanks for that, BTW ... Star Trek always amazed me that every species they encountered spoke English) has its own word that, if the show gains a following, should adorn t-shirts in no time: I'm not sure how it's spelled, but it sounds like "schtocko."  The brilliant Firefly also had its own special cuss words ("gorramit" "what a piece of gosef"), so there's that similarity here as well.

Speaking of Firefly - Defiance is a lot like Joss Whedon's gem - the town looks like many of the worlds the crew of Serenity frequented in structure - broken-down shantys, people lingering in the streets, eclectic marketplaces, etc.   Also, just as Malcolm Reynolds named his ship Serenity after the famous battle he took part in, so it is here - the town is named after the great Defiance battle in the war that had taken place decades before.  Firefly had the Browncoats, Defiance has the Yellow Jackets.  Firefly had Unification Day, Defiance has Armistice Day.  Clearly the creators of this new show were fans ...

Alien Nation -Humans and aliens living together, check.  Alien Nation only had one race, Defiance has eight, but both shows have characters that do NOT like coexisting, and you can see that Defiance is going to play up that dissension as the series goes on.

Terra Nova - This short lived but well-done FOX show had a strong male lead who was thrust into a leadership position of authority, and Defiance has its own with the Nolan character.

I do like how the realm of Defiance is not dependent on technology.  There are old-fashioned cameras, cars and motorcycles, medical equipment similar to what we have. I can buy into it that this is a world not too far in the future, and while they have advanced communication devices and weapons, they're not so advanced that you couldn't see us getting there in a few decades.  And the problems of today - racism, thievery, rebellion - are realistically portrayed  in this post-alien-apocalyptic world.

Am I instantly hooked on Defiance?  No.  While I deem it to be a well-made show with a great group of characters - the doctor, played by Trenna Keating (Combat Hospital) is a stand-out and a hoot - and tried-and-true themes that I have enjoyed in other shows, I'm sitting here watching the 2-hour pilot not fully engaged and not immediately connecting with any of the players, which is always a key to my viewing loyalty.  But that's not to say I don't recommend it.  The have set up a lot to come, including a new war against a dangerous, violent enemy that is sure to yield exciting battle scenes, shifting alliances, friendships, heroics and plenty of drama, so there's certainly potential.  But I would direct viewers to other shows I previously mentioned - Firefly and Battlestar Galactica in particular - before strongly toting this.

Bottom Line:  I defy you to give Defiance a fair chance and judge for yourself if it's for you.

Defiance airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on SyFy (and repeats MANY times in between).

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Show Excursions for This Week

Good stuff this week, Tourists!


So who killed J.R.?  Is Victoria Principal returning to her iconic role as Pam Ewing?  How will the addictive, twisty, betrayal-filled season end?  Find out in the two-hour finale tonight.  Dallas airs at 9 p.m. on TNT.

SyFy Channel's new drama premieres tonight.  The show takes place on Earth in the year 2046.  Over thirty years after various alien races arrived on Earth, the landscape is completely altered, terraformed nearly beyond recognition.  From the creators behind Battlestar Galactica and Caprica, this is a cross-platform debut, with stories taking place both on TV and in a new interactive game.  I think this show is going to feature some great characters and I'm a big-sci-fi/fantasy fan, and also a fan of Julie Benz (Angel, Dexter), so it's why it's a pick of mine.  Defiance premieres at 9 p.m. on SyFy.


I know this series has come under a bit of controversy - law suits, accusations of planted treasures, etc. - but this is still a compelling, entertaining series  that I tune in to watch from time to time, and I'll be checking out the season premiere tonight to see who's back and who's new.  Storage Wars airs at 9 p.m. on A&E.


It's time for Rachel's (Lea Michele) big Broadway audition for the revival of Funny Girl, and we're going to be treated to a little series nostalgia:  Rachel won't be singing her treasured "Don't Rain on My Parade" or any Streisand song for that matter, but will in fact be going all the way back to her glee club roots with "Don't Stop Believing," the number that started it all in the series' pilot episode.  Glee airs at 9 p.m. on FOX.


Looks like we're finally going to find out why Amanda (Melinda Clarke) is the way she is, how she was irreparably broken long ago and by whom.  Love this series and so glad the CW has stuck with it.  I encourage you to check this show out from the beginning and see why Maggie Q deserves a long, big-ass career.  Nikita airs at 8 p.m. on the CW.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Reviews - Bates Motel and Hannibal

Psychopaths seems to be trending on TV these days, with two of the most iconic cinematic figures - Norman Bates (Psycho) and Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter (Manhunter, Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon) - headlining their own dramas: Bates Motel (A&E) and Hannibal (NBC), respectively.

So are they both worth watching?

Bates Motel is a pseudo-origin story, taking us back to when Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore, Finding Neverland) was a shy, awkward teenager living with his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air), a seemingly hopeful, impulsive woman with definite control issues, especially concerning her son, who she rules with a stringent, passive-aggressive thumb ... all which serves to set up events that lead to the Norman we came to know in Alfred Hitchcock's masterful thriller Psycho.


The pilot episode sets up how the Bateses came to live at their infamous hotel following the death of Norman's father - circumstances of which aren't revealed, though Norma's far-less-than-devastated reaction and quick departure is rather telling.  Apparently Norma has moved the twosome around quite a lot, always looking for a fresh start, but since we know this current residence is the one that sticks, whatever happens from here on out happens here. 

The show is definitely capitalizing on the intense, far-beyond-co-dependent relationship we know existed between mother and son.  While incest is not implied, I don't think it's entirely ruled out in the future (I don't recall if such was ever established in the film series).  But these two are close ... VERY close.  Norma clearly wants her precious baby boy all to herself, especially when girls come calling, and goes to great length to tie Norman to her solidly thorugh guilt and self-deprication:

Norma:  "I suck. People suck.  Everyone I've ever known has sucked, except you.  You're too good for me.  I'm the worst mother in the world.  You deserve so much better.  When you were born, it was like God gave me a second chance and all I ever wanted was for life to be beautiful for you and look at it.  Look at what your life has been.  What good am I doing you?"

Norman:  "Mom, you're everything.  Everything to me.  And I don't ever want to live in a world without you.  You're my family.  My whole family, my whole life, my whole self.  You always have been.  It's like there's a cord between our hearts."

Aw, sweet, huh?  Sure, it would be if the two weren't saying these things to each other while in the process of dumping the body of the man  - Keith Summers (W. Earl Brown, Deadwood) - Norma killed in their kitchen.  Yup, had to be murder somewhere in this story, right?  Granted, he did threaten them (he was the prior property owner but the bank forclosed on him, so he was naturally upset), and he did break in, attack and rape her, so it was technically self-defense.  Of course, Norma killed him (stabbed him repeatedly, to be specific) after he'd already been subdued and restrained, so what does that say about her?  Norma doesn't want any of these events to be made public and to have the whole town know, so she opts for Plan B:  cover it all up.  Clearly a pro at compartmentalizing, she quickly instructs Norman on how to dispose of the body and surrounding evidence and maintain a level of innocence and denial when the cops come calling.

Guess we know now where he learned it from, huh?  Not that he doesn't have natural tendencies of his own: when he finds a notebook full of sketches of women tied up, gagged, being tortured and sexually assaulted, it spurs him to start envisioning doing the same to certain women in his life.  Looks like the boy has it in him all on his own ...

Elements that are sure to cause problems for the Bateses ongoing are the local sheriff (Nestor Carbonell, Lost, Ringer), who has suspicions about the duo right from the jump (a little too quickly for me); and the addition of another son, Dylan (Max Thieriot, Nancy Drew), Norman's half-brother who Norma had when she was 17 and with whom she has a very strained, tempestuous relationship (he calls her Norma, much to her chagrin, and labels her as "whore" in his phone ID).   This is an odd plot choice for me - not sure why the creators opted to add a sibling, but I guess they have their reasons.

The only other thing not quite working for me in this show is that it's taking place today, so there are items like smart phones.  To see Norman texting is just ... odd.  On the one hand we have the original motel and house featured in the original 1960 film (shooting on Universal lot, I wonder?), the family car is an old-model Mercedes, but then we have modern devices like iPhones.  Combining the old with the new is just a little weird for me.

I've seen the first three episodes, and I know a lot that has to happen to make this a full, ongoing series. It can't just be about Norman and his mother ... other characters and plotlines have to be weaved in to their story.  But it's well done enough so far, and I think Farmiga and Highmore portray their respective characters well - the latter does have moments of definite creepiness and yeah-I-can-see-future-Norman Bates-we-all-know-and-fear in him.  I'm not completely hooked,, though, so I may give it another ep or two to see if I'll "check in" for the long haul.

Hannibal is a much more instantly gripping, compelling show that, despite featuring what has become a current trend - eccentric geniuses that can can pinpoint unseen evidence and envision and solve crimes in uniquely brilliant ways, like in the terrific CBS series Elementary (with which it's going head-to-head on Thursdays) and less so in TNT's Perception - stands on it own as a terrific great new drama.

That's saying something considering the story's cinematic pedigree.  I mean, we're talking about one of the most infamously evil movie characters of all time: Hannibal Lecter.  This is certainly not our first introduction to him.  Most renowned would be Anthony Hopkins' portrayal in The Silence of the Lambs, which also featured the character of FBI chief Jack Crawford, played  by Scott Glenn.  The film Manhunter and its remake Red Dragon focused on special agent Will Graham, played by William Petersen and Edward Norton, respectively. 


Hannibal is centering around these three key characters:  Graham is played by Hugh Dancy (The Big C); Lecter by Mads Mikkelsen (Clash of the Titans); and Crawford by Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix).  The story is taking place long before Lecter was caught and locked behind plated glass and denied his usual ... menu.  Here he is actually a consultant, a psychological expert brought in to help Graham and Crawford catch serial killers. The irony is of course, that Lecter is one himself, twistedly operating his own crimes right under their noses.  How much will he be working at cross-purposes - seemingly helping to catch murderers, seeming to care for the victims while continuing to take ... and dine ... on his own?

Unlike previous incarnations, Dancy's Graham is not entirely stable:  on the behavioral spectrum he "hitches his horse to a post that is closer to Aspergers and autistics" but, as Crawford points out, can empathize with narcissists and sociopaths, which gives him an invaluable point of view in profiling crimes.  The fact that he can re-enact murders in his mind as if he himself were the killer (which is done very disturbingly and stylistically, with images that are clearly pushing the violence envelope for a major network like NBC ... think a less-graphic American Horror Story), makes him a uniquely qualified expert ... one Crawford wants to capitalize on, even if it means forcing the socially awkward Graham right out of his comfort zone (the man gets along with dogs far better than people).

Mikkelsen's Lecter is as the others: intelligent, reserved, civilized, unassuming.  The actor is Danish and his accent for me is a little distracting.  I much prefer Hopkins' velvet British voice.  But unlike the other actors, he has more to overcome to be memorable in the role.  Admittedly I don't even remember Brian Cox as Lecter in Manhunter (sorry, sir) and was glad Hopkins was brought in for Red Dragon (though he was older than he was supposedly portraying - a stretch).  His is the one true Lecter for me.  Fishburne is his usual powerful presence, and his Crawford is pretty on par with Glenn's. 

What's so ... delicious .. about this series is waiting and watching to see the relationship develop between Graham and Lecter.  The good doctor is a master at getting into people's heads, and Graham's seems like such an easy target, his eccentricities making him seem ripe for the picking.  As it says in one promo, "the closer he gets,  the further his mind goes."  Could he become that which he seeks?  But I think that's going to be the twist - maybe it's the very reason Lecter won't get in.  But what a fascinating dance it's poised to be! 

Not to mention that Gillian Anderson - yes, Scully! - is coming up in future episodes! Been a while since we've seen her.  And she's playing Hannibal's shrink ... how cool is that?!

Bottom Line:     

Bates Motel - Check in for a look and decide for yourself if it's for you.
Hannibal - I'm hungry for more!  Make a reservation to get on board with this series.

Bates Motel airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on A&E.  Hannibal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.