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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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(Courtesy photo) Mads Mikkelson stars as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in NBC's “Hannibal.”
KSL yanks violent ‘Hannibal’ off its schedule

KSL-Ch. 5 is yanking another NBC program from its schedule. "Hannibal" moves to KUCW-Ch. 30's late-night schedule as of Saturday at midnight.

"After this last week's episode, it just had too much graphic content for us," said Tami Ostmark, KSL's vice president of marketing, research and promotion. "It was just too bloody and violent.

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"This is beyond anything we've put on our station before. This is too graphic to be on regular TV. It should be a cable show. We've talked to NBC, and that's how we feel about it."

"Hannibal," a prequel to "Silence of the Lambs," is arguably the most violent, bloody show on broadcast television.

The series will continue to air in the Salt Lake TV market, but on a different station and much later than the 9 p.m. MT time slot where it has been seen on KSL — Saturdays at midnight on KUCW.

"We'll be airing it after 'Saturday Night Live' through June 20," said Richard Doutre Jones, vice president and general manager of KUCW and sister station KTVX-Ch. 4. "We're happy to air all of the NBC shows KSL doesn't."

Ch. 30, the local affiliate of The CW, airs "Saturday Night Live"; it aired the entire first season of the sitcom "The New Normal" (the season finale was in April); and now it's adding "Hannibal."

While KSL executives have never paid any noticeable attention to anything yours truly has written, yanking "Hannibal" comes the week after I ran a column questioning their consistency by pointing out they pulled the surprisingly sweet sitcom "The New Normal" but continued to air the horrifically violent "Hannibal."

"To be honest, you guys helped us with that article that yoiu wrote," Ostmark said. "We got a lot of feedback from viewers."

To be clear, I did not call for KSL to pull the show off its schedule. I questioned the inconsistency of yanking "The New Normal" and airing "Hannibal," and questioned parents who worry about sex in the media but not violence.

Here's that column:

TV sex is a problem but violence is fine?

Have you checked out the NBC series "Hannibal"? Here are a few things you might have missed:

  • The naked body of a woman impaled on antlers.
  • Bodies carved up so that their backs are splayed like grotesque angel wings.
  • Characters dining on human body parts .
  • People buried alive, covered in compost and fed sugar water so they grow fungus all over their bodies.
  • Victims with their eyes gouged out.
  • Victims being shot as blood splatters in slow motion.
  • A victim whose throat is slashed and blood gushes from her wound.

Just to name a few.

In the 23 years I've been a TV critic, "Hannibal" is the single most violent, gory series that's aired on broadcast television.

It's not as gruesome as "The Walking Dead," although there are moments that equal anything on that cable series.

And yet ... have you heard of protests by the parents groups that want to cleanse TV? Have you heard anybody protesting?

Janet Jackson has a momentary wardrobe malfunction and these groups go nuts. But prolonged, horrific violence? No problem!

Locally, KSL yanks "The Playboy Club" and "The New Normal" off the air amid talk of how they are inconsistent with the KSL brand, but that brand is consistent with "Hannibal"?

It's not just that show. NBC's "Revolution" and "Grimm" can be hugely violent.

And it's not just NBC. There's a long list of violent shows, from CBS' "Criminal Minds" to The CW's "Supernatural" to Fox's "The Following."

I can't begin to tell you how many times I've had a conversation that went like this:

Parent: Is such-and-such show OK for my kids to watch?

Me: Well, 11 people are shot to death, there are two stabbings, a guy's head is chopped off and there's blood everywhere.

Parent: But are there any sex scenes?

Sigh.

We could argue about the competing studies on how television influences behavior. But broadcast TV is based on the commercials affecting behavior, so it's disingenuous to argue that program content does not.

If I had young children, there's no way I'd allow them to watch "Hannibal." When my kids were growing up, I knew what was on TV and didn't let them watch a lot of it.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting sexual content is good for children. I'm not suggesting that adults shouldn't watch shows designed for them. I'm not suggesting local stations should pull shows and deny adult viewers the right to make decisions for themselves.

But what I don't understand is parents who reject sex on TV but don't flinch at the violence.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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