Scott D. Pierce: ‘Hannibal’ producer likens KSL to Russia

First Published      Last Updated Feb 27 2014 05:00 pm

The executive producer of NBC's "Hannibal" isn't all that upset with KSL for refusing to air his show.

"Well, because they had yanked other things that were less offensive, I didn't take it quite as personally," said Bryan Fuller ("Pushing Daisies," "Dead Like Me," Wonderfalls").

He did, however, compare Channel 5 to Pravda, the Russian newspaper that, in the Soviet era particularly, was known for repressing the news or changing it to fit the Communist Party's version of the truth.

"Even, like, look at what's happening in Russia with all of the anti-gay propaganda — but I still love Russian citizens," Fuller said. "I don't like what the government does, but I like the people."

Well, that's pretty clear. The executive producer of "Hannibal" sees the Powers That Be at KSL as the Utah equivalent of the repressive leaders of Russia.

Alrighty, then.

To be clear, Fuller said all this in a perfectly pleasant tone. There was no hard edge in his voice, no hint of bitterness.

From his perspective, KSL's refusal to air "Hannibal" is something he can swat away like a gnat. It's not as if the future of his series depends on the Salt Lake television market, which makes up slightly less than 0.8 percent of all the TV-equipped households in America, as measured by Nielsen.

Fuller — one of the nicest guys you'll run into in the television business — regards KSL's stance as more of an oddity. And he's aware that "Hannibal" is the latest in a long line of shows that KSL has refused to air or shifted into late-night time slots, first as a CBS affiliate and, since 1995, as an NBC affiliate.

(That list includes "Picket Fences," "Doctor, Doctor," "Poker After Dark," "Coupling," "God, the Devil and Bob," "The Playboy Club," "The New Normal" and the occasional Sports Illustrated swimsuit special.)

It's true that television has changed since KSL refused to air the remarkably benign "Doctor, Doctor" back in 1990. Viewers have other options, and not just because KUCW-Ch. 30 is airing "Hannibal" on Saturdays at 10 p.m.

"I know that there are fans in Utah that have to stream it," Fuller said. And that's definitely an option for a lot of people.

But can any station afford to drive viewers online and away from their TV sets? Isn't that already happening at rates that alarm broadcasters? Will viewers go online and not come back?

The fact is that "Hannibal" is too gross for me. And I'm not buying Fuller's explanation that his serial-killer show "is fantasy. It's not real. And that just makes it possible for me to do it."

At the same time, call me crazy, but I think if you're an NBC affiliate, you ought to let your viewers see NBC shows. If viewers reject it, it will go away.

Otherwise, you come across as Utah's equivalent to Vladimir Putin.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.