Flipping Channels: Hannibal Cleans Its Plate

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Considering how many times the character Hannibal Lecter has appeared in various films, the odds were not high that yet another project could succeed using him as its foundation, let alone a weekly TV show. But that's exactly what's happened with Hannibal for NBC, a network desperately in need of successful scripted dramas. Mads Mikkelsen's portrayal of the erudite serial killer and cannibal Lecter has been exceptional, and the program did well enough to merit a second-season renewal.

Lecter's relationship with FBI profiler Will Graham (well played by Hugh Dancy) has ranged from fascinating to disgusting to baffling, with Graham also battling encephalitis that causes blackouts and hallucinations. Lecter's used his knowledge of that situation to personal advantage, and the Lecter/Graham dynamics have affected other situations in Graham's life, especially his interactions with both Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) and Beverly Katz (Hettienne Park).

The first-season finale Thursday (WSMV-4, 9 p.m.) provides some powerhouse resolutions to a series of issues, which executive producer Bryan Fuller tells TV Guide will result in "the worst is yet to come." Fortunately, he also assures audiences that he's not going to leave them hanging with loose ends, and instead will conclude the year in a manner that enables the program to restart itself when it returns for a second 13-episode season in 2014.

As with The Following, those who don't like gore and overt violence are advised to avoid Hannibal. It's not quite the revolting equal of Showtime's Dexter, because this is still network TV — but it gets about as close as possible.

Copper returns
The BBC's intriguing period-piece police drama Copper, from the Homicide team of Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana, begins its second season Sunday (BBC, 9 p.m.) with a new cast addition. Donal Logue, well known on both sides of the Atlantic for roles in FX's Sons of Anarchy and the History Channel's Vikings, joins the show as the primary foe for New York detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones).

Logue plays ward boss Brendan Donovan, who's making the move from the Army (as a Union general) to politics as the man who runs the Five Points neighborhood. Donovan sees the opportunity to secure genuine citywide power consolidating a crime empire while appearing a legitimate politician. He's also a former cop, which gives him insight into how police operate but puts him on a collision course with Corcoran.

Copper does a commendable job of blending historical accuracy with ample contemporary energy in its writing, directing and acting. While audiences get plenty of insight into the changes taking place in America due to the Civil War, they see that rampant greed, political intrigue, ethnic tensions, and runaway ambition were just as prevalent in past centuries as they are today.

Meet Franklin & Bash's new boss
The legal misadventures of attorneys Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer) and Peter Bash (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) are about to undergo some changes. When the show starts its third season Wednesday (TNT, 8 p.m.), the brash duo has a new boss: Rachel King (Heather Locklear).

King is no fan of either their charm or their antics. She's been assigned to straighten out the team, make sure they adhere to courtroom decorum and generally act more like lawyers and less like frat guys. Franklin and Bash have about as much use for her as she does for them, which results in immediate and constant fireworks.

The program's blend of comedy and drama has generated decent but not great ratings over its prior two years. Locklear's addition is designed to lure some new faces and hopefully elevate the show's profile. If you can only see one show about a squabbling law firm, I'd still vote for USA's Suits — but this new casting move at least merits another look.

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