Could it be that NBC has produced a keeper in the deliciously creepy Hannibal? We shouldn't break out the proverbial Chianti just yet; the early returns have been modest, to put it mildly, but in this tough-for-NBC time period (Thursday, 10/9c) that the network once owned, it's looking better than it has lately (with an insta-dud like Do No Harm or the below-the-radar Rock Center). And the media buzz, while understandably mixed, is stronger than for most of the networks' midseason yawns. With repeats on the other networks this week, and featuring one of the show's most relentlessly unnerving chapters to date, this is as good a time as any to sample Hannibal's unsavory wares.
The focus of this episode is on young Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl), the daughter of the serial killer from the pilot episode, who awakens from her coma wondering, "Can you catch someone's crazy?" On this series, that's a fair question. Naturally suspicious FBI boss Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) wonders if she might have been an accomplice to her human-hunting father, and tasks his BAU brain trust, including the haunted-by-nightmares consultant Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and his hauntingly bizarre shrink Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), to accompany her home, where a constant state of dread permeates every perverse and potentially bloody twist. It's a riveting hour of ghoulishly effective TV.
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FOR LAUGHS: Another upside for Hannibal in this week's scheduling: a lead-in from one of NBC's stronger (though still underperforming) comedies, Parks and Recreation, with back-to-back episodes (starting at 9/8c) capped by a retirement party for office patsy Jerry (Jim O'Heir). ... Earlier in the evening, NBC's Community (8/7c) is once again dislocated from the actual calendar's timeline, presenting a holiday-themed episode in which Jeff's party is ruined when suck-up Annie brings curmudgeonly Professor Cornwallis (Malcolm McDowell) as a guest. ... Guest-star alert on TBS' dreary Men at Work (10/9c), as Frasier's too-little-seen Peri Gilpin appears as a new magazine editor all the guys try to impress.
SING IT: Regardless of which girl ends up with the lowest number of votes on Fox's American Idol (8/7c), expect the judges to use their "save" while they still can, because this is their last chance. While we wait for results, Idol's comeback tour continues with two of the show's most notable alums performing: Season 3 winner Fantasia and second-season runner-up Clay Aiken. ... I think we can all agree that Lea Michele was born to play Fanny Brice on Broadway in a Funny Girl revival, and her character of Rachel Berry finally gets a chance to audition for the part on Fox's Glee (9/8c) in the New York part of the story. Back at McKinley High, where you have to imagine everyone is still recovering from last week's gun scare, the New Directions crew explores their "Dreams," that being the theme of this year's Regionals.
THE THURSDAY GUIDE: In a first, CBS' daytime staple The Price Is Right (check tvguide.com listings) lets kids "come on down" and play iconic games like Plinko with their parents. ... Journalist Sebastian Junger pays moving tribute to his colleague and co-director of the Oscar-nominated war documentary Restrepoin the HBO film Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington (8/7c). "The important thing for me is to connect with real people, to document them in these extreme circumstances," says Hetherington in interviews from before his death at age 40 in 2011, when he was killed in Libya by mortar fire alongside Getty photographer Chris Hondros (also seen in archival footage) while covering the civil war there. "I have become embedded emotionally in all of the work that I do," he says. So are we all as Junger revisits key points of this illustrious life and career. ... In this era of extreme exhibitionism, there's no novelty in the spectacle of "reality whores" who'll do anything to be on camera. But rarely is that term brought to such literal life as on Showtime's Gigolos (11/10c), which returns for an inexplicable fourth season.