Colin Hogg on television

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Colin Hogg: From the ridiculous to the sublime

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Food is taken to disturbing new levels at TV3 - and one show is entirely forgettable.

Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen and Laurence Fishburne star in Hannibal, the new American series, on Saturday nights.
Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen and Laurence Fishburne star in Hannibal, the new American series, on Saturday nights.

There are some signs we might be getting near the bottom of the great big awful barrel of food television. I spotted a couple of them on Saturday night on TV3 - both disturbing, though in different ways.

First, at 7.30, came Hotel GB, a bizarre new British concoction that certainly looks a bit like the last mad food series you'd make before you turned off the light and left the room forever.

Hotel GB is simply - and I do mean simply - a big and expensive game of "let's play hotel" involving almost everyone in British reality TV, from Gordon Ramsay, the sweary chef, through Gok Wan, the campy fashionista, to the earnest presenting pair from Location Location.

Ramsay poses as co-manager of the pretend hotel along with "customer service guru" Mary Portas, while Gok plays at being the bar manager, Phil Spencer (Location Location) the maitre'd and a horrifying flirty old trout called Kim Woodham ("the queen of clean") is in charge of housekeeping.

And, just to make things as hazardous as these sorts of shows apparently need to be, the staff is made up of variously hapless members of the great army of young English unemployed.

As one of them, a gormless would-be receptionist called Tom, wisely observed in Saturday's first episode, "If everything went right, something would be wrong."

And if all that doesn't appear daft enough, various scary guests are thrown at the blundering staff, including the remains of the novelist Jackie Collins, who must be well into her 100s.

It was entirely stupid stuff and not in an entirely good way. A two-star hotel at best.

For another sort of mad food show altogether, I caught the first episode of Hannibal (TV3, Saturday, 9.30pm), the flash new American series based on the early adventures of Dr Hannibal Lecter, the fictional cannibal made famous by the hit movie Silence of the Lambs, with Anthony Hopkins in the starring role.

In Hannibal, the Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen takes the toothsome lead and his sheer physical presence - impossible cheekbones, pitiless eyes - makes him seem perfect, if slightly incomprehensible, thanks to the accent.

The show's accent is on violence - of the extreme, sudden, throat-slashing variety. Mercilessly, it sets new standards, with blood spattered everywhere, long before even the first ad break.

It is brilliantly made and disturbingly deviant, best watched well away from dinnertime, if you have the grit to watch it at all, as it plays wicked games with the relationship between Lecter, the liver and lung-gobbling forensic scientist, and a troubled autistic FBI criminal profiler chasing a serial killer (guess who?).

There was one scene on Saturday I might never forget - a cut (forgive me) from the discovery that the latest victim is missing her lungs to those very organs being lovingly laid out, sliced and diced, cooked and eaten by Lecter, with a hint of a smile on his dreadful face. I imagine there will be a recipe book at some point.

Meantime, we have Hannibal, the 13-part TV series, with a second series already on the way. It's quite astonishing stuff and certainly a breakthrough into a new world of nerve-wrenching home entertainment.

I'm hooked.

- NZ Herald

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