Just as certain authors have distinctive voices, certain directors and creators have distinctive visions and you can tell when you’re watching one of their works. For example, Michael Mann movies have a certain look about them and once you know what to look for, you can usually tell when you’re watching one of his films. When Hannibal premiered in April, I was intrigued. I enjoyed The Silence of the Lambs and Manhunter and was interested in seeing what this take on the character would be like. The cast, Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Laurence Fishburne, and Caroline Dhavernas, were all people whose work I enjoyed. I watched the first episode and while I liked the acting and the story, the feel and the visuals of the show were what really grabbed me. They seemed familiar for some reason. In the second episode of Hannibal, a character from another TV show, Wonderfalls, appeared so I looked into who was writing and producing the show, found out it was Bryan Fuller, and understood why I was attracted to Hannibal. Fuller has created some of my favorite TV shows and while the story line of Hannibal is much more violent than his other shows, the look and feel are similar.
The first time I saw a Fuller production was Wonderfalls. In it, Jaye, the youngest daughter of Darrin and Karen Tyler (her other siblings are named Sharon and Aaron), works at a Niagara Falls gift shop and one day, a wax lion talks to her. This sets off a whole series of inanimate objects with animal faces telling her to do things that will, in some way, help her or others. Caroline Dhavernas (who’s in Hannibal) and Lee Pace (who might, fingers crossed, be in the second season of Hannibal) starred. I fell in love with the show immediately. Only a few episodes aired, but the entire show is available on DVD.
Dead Like Me, the first show Fuller created, aired before Wonderfalls, but I caught it after. In Dead Like Me, Ellen Muth, who guest-stars on Hannibal, plays Georgia Lass, a young woman who dies after being hit by a toilet seat falling from a reorbiting space station. Georgia becomes a Grim Reaper and works with a small group of other Reapers. It aired for two seasons (there’s also a movie) and also stars Mandy Patinkin and Jasmine Guy.
The last show Fuller created before developing Hannibal is probably the most famous of all his creations: Pushing Daisies. It stars Lee Pace (another Fuller favorite) as Ned. As a young boy, Ned discovers he has the power to bring dead things (his dog, his mother, some birds) back to life with a touch, but if he touches them again, they die forever. As an adult, he brings his childhood sweetheart, Chuck, played by Anna Friel, back to life and they fall in love, but can’t touch because if they do, she’ll die again. This show also aired for only two seasons.
Fuller’s shows all have a sense of the fantastic, like some warped fairy tale. Wonderfalls has talking inanimate objects; Dead Like Me has Grim Reapers as the main characters; Pushing Daisies‘ main character has the power to bring back the dead; and Hannibal is about a serial killer. They also share a sense of sadness and loneliness. In Wonderfalls, Jaye’s ability to hear inanimate objects pushes her farther away from people she’s already distanced herself from; in Dead Like Me, Georgia watches her little sister grow up without her and realizes how much she loves her family; and in Pushing Daisies, two people who are in love can never touch each other.
I don’t want to say too much about Hannibal and its characters’ story lines since it’s just finished its first season, but it too contains a level of loneliness. Visually, Pushing Daisies is the show Hannibal reminds me of which may sound a little weird. The colors in Hannibal are more muted than the colors in Pushing Daisies, but there’s still a richness to them that I haven’t noticed in other shows. I can’t say that if you enjoy Pushing Daisies or Dead Like Me or Wonderfalls, that you’ll love Hannibal; it’s a completely different beast and very graphic, but if you enjoy watching how an artist carries his vision through different works, what Fuller has done throughout his career is worth looking at and Hannibal is an interesting part of that vision.