Fantasies and Franchises

The future of the hour-long TV drama might be glimpsed in NBC’s consideration of two shows from Bryan Fuller (Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies). One is an hour-long version of The Munsters, a project that has been in development for a long time, but seems to have inspired new interest because of the fantasy and monster boom on U.S. TV. And the other is a Hannibal Lecter TV series. Both of these ideas are based on existing properties, and they show how a lot of expensive new shows may be developed in the future: the former is from NBC/Universal’s own catalogue, and the latter is an international co-production that will be sold internationally before it airs (if it airs). The Firm is another new NBC show that is being produced along the international co-pro model: produced by a transnational company, filmed in Canada, and financed jointly by NBC and its international distributors. It’s possible that in an increasingly internationalized TV market – and with the need to get shows onto as many platforms as possible – co-productions will eventually become a bigger part of U.S. TV, as they already are in Canada and elsewhere.

These projects are not the most promising in the world, at least in description, though The Munsters sounds like a more promising idea than Hannibal. NBC obviously is interested in Hannibal because their current president, Robert Greenblatt, had a big success with Dexter when he was at Showtime, and Dexter is a show that is widely watched and respected within the industry (it must be; it keeps getting nominated for the Emmy even though it hasn’t been very good in some time). Dexter is sort of an executive’s ideal of what an edgy cable show should be: a dark, violent show about an anti-hero, but one without a particularly strong creator or showrunner voice, so the network needn’t grovel to a Matt Weiner to keep the show going. (The Walking Dead is another example of this type of show: based on an existing property, and a show where the showrunners are interchangeable.) NBC obviously wants its own version of that, an anti-hero show based on a character from books. But not only is Hannibal Lecter not really a network character, he’s so familiar that he doesn’t even have the novelty value Dexter had.

A Munsters reboot is more interesting because it seems to fit in more with Fuller’s specialties – creating a stylized, slightly twee world – and doing it as an hour-long show with more continuity would at least sidestep some of the comparisons to the original. Of course, a lot of the continuity would probably wind up being based on things no one could possibly care about (like explaining why Herman and Lily produced werewolf offspring), but if they can get the right cast, it could work.

Looking for more?

Get the best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.