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‘Hannibal’ the Cannibal Comes to TV with TV-14 rating.

NBC embraces serial killer show geared for 14-year-olds.

Serial killer shows are popular these days. “Bates Motel,” “The Following,” “Dexter,” Criminal Minds, now add NBC’s “Hannibal” to the list. The primetime television show about the cannibalistic serial killer, “Hannibal Lecter,” premieres April 4.

Besides being shown on broadcast television during primetime television hours, this show is rated TV-14, as in, appropriate for young teenagers. The movies based on the same character were rated “R” in 1991 and 2001, but a TV show anyone can access is given a lower rating. The show seems to promise both graphic material and a sympathetic tone toward evil, which is what is truly disturbing about “Hannibal.” It reflects the larger trend, which includes shows like “Dexter” and “Bates Motel,” that also try to make the audience sympathize with the killer.

Mads Mikkelsen, who plays the title character, admitted as such in an interview on NBC’s website:

“We’re always trying when we play the villains, not to be, straight-out villains, we want to have something likeable about them – find it, sometimes it can be very hard. We do our best. … So we’re trying to make him as human as we can, to a degree, but still, Hannibal.”

Likeable cannibals? It doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect television shows suited for young teens to not glorify murder and eating people, but apparently NBC has no problem with it. Promos on the show’s website prominently feature gruesome images from the pilot episode, among them a dismembered arm and bloody, disemboweled bodies.

NBC describes Hannibal the Cannibal as being, “one of the most fascinating literary characters.” Hollywood seems to have an endless fascination with serial killers lately and the more gruesome the better. It’s hard to imagine something more degrading than to make the serial killer a cannibal as well but who knows what taboo they will find fascinating next.