CBS All Access’ new show ‘Clarice’ – hot bite or pass?

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By Alicia Glass

So recently CBS dropped a trailer and a wealth of information on their latest opus, a tv show set in the world of author Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter – but without any Hannibal Lecter. Rather, this new show focuses on the title heroine, Clarice Starling (Rebecca Breeds).

Set in 1993, a year after the events of the pivotal film ‘Silence of the Lambs’, the show is a police procedural jaunt, focusing on the FBI still reeling after several key real-life disasters – Waco, Ruby Ridge, the first World Trade Center bombing – and Starling’s adventures therein.

Joined by her Black roommate and best friend Ardelia Mapp (Devyn Tyler), Starling takes on PTSD fallout after the notorious Buffalo Bill case, but due to outside copyright issues, is never likely to mention Hannibal Lecter himself on the show. The show’s first season is said not to have a singular villain, but a multitude of bad guys and means for Starling to rise up against, along with racial and gender discrimination not only inside the FBI but pretty much prevalent everywhere.

Speaking of Buffalo Bill, the lone survivor victim Catherine Martin (Marnee Carpenter) stars on the show alongside Starling, having survived and inexplicably adopted Bill’s infamous poodle Precious.

So what’s the hot take? A television show from the world of Hannibal the Cannibal with no hide nor hair nor mention of Hannibal himself, and a cop procedural that demonstrates yet again the fallacies of the criminal justice system with regards to race and gender, why do we need that again? Taking out most of the things that Harris’ novel world made unique and fascinating and leaving just the bare bones to focus on Starlings’ career (or lack thereof) in the FBI seems like a stretch and a half. Those of us that have read all the Hannibal books know that by the time we catch back up to Starling, after the events in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, in the sequel novel ‘Hannibal’ set in approximately 1995 or so, her career in the FBI is pretty much a wash. The events of the disastrous drug raid at the beginning of the book is what leads to her transformation at Hannibal’s hands at the end, but her utter lack of an FBI career certainly served as a catalyst. So do we huge world of Hannibal fans suspend our disbelief and try to enjoy a new FBI show with a familiar, beloved character who’s purportedly doomed to fail? We shall see.

Also, they really should have titled the show, ‘Starling’. That’s so much cooler.

Clarice’ premieres on CBS All Access on February 11th