There are currently three crime dramas on network TV that are highly explicit in terms of the violence and gruesomeness portrayed: "The Following," "Criminal Minds," and "Hannibal." They each air on different networks and have different levels of viewership. And while they are each similar in some ways, their differences outweigh their similarities. Why do they have such contrasting ratings, and what makes one show more popular than another?
"The Following": The most popular of the three with younger audiences
"The Following" is on Fox and has the best rating/share of the three shows for the target 18-49 demographic, but fewer total viewers than "Criminal Minds." This is probably the most explicitly gruesome of the three shows. There is a definite story arc revolving around an imprisoned madman (James Purefoy) who has gained a cult of loyal followers who love to murder people.
It is difficult to determine whether the show will be able to retain its own following with such a restrictive story arc. Some early fans in Facebook groups have already voiced concerns over the fact that the arc seems to become sillier as time goes on, and some have already given up on the show, despite their love of Kevin Bacon as the protagonist. Its early lead may dry up.
On the other hand, Kevin Bacon may be able to retain a cult of followers for the series on his own. He's just so darned likable as an actor.
"Criminal Minds": The most watched of the three
"Criminal Minds" on CBS has a slightly lower rating/share in the target demographic than that of "The Following," but it also has the highest total viewership. It has been around the longest by far, now finishing up Season 8 and likely to be renewed for a ninth.
The best thing this show has to offer is the relationship between the characters. Even viewers who do not like the more gruesome aspects of the show may be charmed by the ensemble cast, which oozes a sense of camaraderie. If those actors are not friends in real life, they certainly do a great job of faking it.
"Criminal Minds," like "Hannibal," is more of a procedural drama, although they both employ a slight overarching storyline that allows the characters to grow. The story arc on "Hannibal" is a bit stronger, but in both cases, it is possible to jump into the middle and enjoy the show.
"Hannibal": The least popular of the three, but most deserving of a chance
This series on NBC has the most in common with "The Following." It employs the use of one man (Hugh Dancy) attempting to solve crimes with a maniac involved (Hannibal, played by Mads Mikkelsen). The primary difference here is that the maniac in this case is another consultant, because he has not yet been discovered as a serial killer. In fact, he is a trusted confidant, who would seem fairly normal if the viewers did not already know his secret.
Everyone who has seen the movies about Hannibal Lecter (and many who never saw them but have heard about it) knows what will happen in the end. This series happens before the events of the first movie and portrays the story of how Hannibal (played by Anthony Hopkins in the movies) became the imprisoned monster who first gave Clarice (played by Jodie Foster in the movie) the creeps with his soul-piercing stare.
The show can be slow at times but takes a unique twist on the character of Hannibal. The cinematography on this series is amazing, leaving bizarre images imprinted in the brains of the viewers and taking them on a freakish journey into the minds of serial killers. Some of the images are grotesque, but in a surprisingly artistic way. The crime-of-the-week component shares the spotlight with the series' visual interest.
More from this contributor:
- Arts & Entertainment
- Criminal Minds
- Hannibal Lecter
- Kevin Bacon