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'Hannibal's' Bryan Fuller on the Rise of the Horror Genre, Violence on TV

"You can't drop a bucket of blood on [the audience] and expect them to have a good time," the showrunner says of the limits to what he can show on NBC's new drama.

Hannibal Hugh Dancy - H 2013
NBC
"Hannibal"

Zombies, serial killers and deranged insane asylums: horror is definitely having its day on television, and NBC is joining the blood-splattered party with Bryan Fuller's Hannibal.

Based on the Thomas Harris books, Hannibal stars Hugh Dancy as Will Graham, the criminal profiler who is on the hunt for a serial killer (or two) who enlists the help of renowned psychologist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen).

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The series premieres Thursday, four days after a record 12.4 million people tuned in for the third season finale of AMC's The Walking Dead and as Fox is achieving a rare midseason success with its Kevin Bacon serial killer drama The Following, which has already earned a second-season renewal. That's not to mention FX's anthology American Horror Story, which featured a darker Asylum-themed second season filled with its own brand of serial killers, as well as A&E's Psycho origin story Bates Motel, which is off to a strong start.

"One of the reasons that horror is finding an audience on television now is that it really wasn't represented before," Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls) told The Hollywood Reporter during a recent conference call with reporters. "In the last 15 years that I've been working in television, I pitched many a horror series and had been told horror does not work on television. What that basically means is that it doesn't work until somebody proves that it does work."

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Fuller -- whose most recent endeavor into the horror genre was Mockingbird Lane, a hyper-stylized dramatic take on CBS' The Munsters for NBC -- said AMC proved "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that there is an appetite for the genre.

"It was just a matter of it hadn't been represented before -- and now it has and it was successful so that success changes the perception of a genre," said Fuller, who noted he's been reading Fangoria magazine since he was 10.

Fuller noted that television's uptick in horror offerings comes at a time when television is merely reflecting society's views on violence. "We're reflecting where people's heads are in a certain way and that's part of the arts' responsibility in its role in society," Fuller said. "Entertainment has a very strange and cloudy mirror that it holds up to society."

While NBC's Hannibal will not shy away from the graphic violence depicted in Harris' books and their big-screen adaptations featuring the iconic cannibal, Fuller said the network has been willing to work with him in what he can and cannot depict.

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"They recognize that they are doing a horror show and the show is called Hannibal; they've put us on at 10 o'clock for a reason -- so we can maximize what we can show to honor the genre and also provide fans of the genre certain ingredients that they are expecting to see," he said, noting the network has imposed certain limits.

"I would love to be going a lot further but NBC keeps reminding me where the line is," he added. "Eye gouging, seeing people's intestines being removed from their bodies in great noodly clumps -- those types of things they tend to say no to."

"As an artist in the role of executive producing the show, I want to please the core audience more than anyone and it's NBC's responsibility that we don't go so far that we alienate members of the audience who are willing to stick through some of the horror elements," Fuller said. "You can't drop a bucket of blood on [the audience] and expect them to have a good time."

Hannibal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit