SALT LAKE CITY – A Mormon church-owned NBC affiliate in Utah has pulled the "Hannibal" TV show because of its graphic violence.
The first three episodes of the serial-killer drama that aired on KSL-TV became increasingly graphic and "extremely gory," drawing complaints from many viewers and rising eyebrows among station executives, said Tami Ostmark, KSL-TV vice president of marketing.
KSL executives were somewhat uncomfortable with the "Hannibal" show after viewing the pilot and promos but decided to give it a chance, Ostmark said.
"We knew it would be graphic," Ostmark said. "But as the episodes went on, it just got more graphic and gory."
"Hannibal" is the latest show the TV station — owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has its worldwide headquarters in Salt Lake City — has judged to be unsuitable for its audience.
In the fall of 2012, the station opted not to run "The New Normal," a sitcom about a gay couple who invites a surrogate mother into their home. Since 2002, the station hasn't aired "Saturday Night Live." KSL will fill its Thursday 9 p.m. time slot with a special edition of its newscast, Ostmark said.
Utah residents will still be able to watch the show — the ABC affiliate will air it late Saturday night, said Richard Doutre Jones, vice president and general manager of KTVX and KUCW, Utah's CW30 affiliate.
The station also airs "The New Normal" and "Saturday Night Live," and regularly picks up shows KSL passes on. He said there are many people that want to watch "Hannibal" and that since it's at night, adults can make "adult choices" about what to watch, he said.
"There are a lot of shows on a lot of stations and a lot of networks that are more gory and violent than Hannibal," Doutre Jones said. "It's a well-written, well-done show. I have no issue carrying the show."
The show is a prequel to the 1991 movie, "Silence of the Lambs," in which actor Anthony Hopkins earned an Oscar for his role as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist-turned-serial-killer. NBC pulled an episode of the show earlier this month out of sensitivity to recent violence, including the Boston bombings. The episode featured a character who brainwashes children to kill other children.
KSL's Facebook page shows the decision to yank Hannibal has mixed support. Many applaud the station for protecting them and their children from stumbling on to the graphic violence, but others criticize the station for censorship and point out that viewers can change the channel if they don't like a show.
KSL-TV isn't coming under as much fire as it did in August 2012 when it opted not to air "The New Normal." At the time, executives said the program was inappropriate to air during family viewing time, the dialogue was excessively rude and crude and the scenes were too explicit.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation sharply criticized KSL's decision, and NBC defended the program, noting it makes "a statement about the changing definition of the nuclear family."
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