* HANNIBAL. 10 p.m. Thursday, NBC10.
AS THE creative mind behind Fox's "Wonderfalls" and ABC's "Pushing Daisies," Bryan Fuller is known for making the kind of beautiful television not nearly enough people watch.
On Thursday, Fuller returns with NBC's "Hannibal," a gorgeously realized production with a difference. This one comes with a built-in audience that can't get enough of fiction's favorite serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (here played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen).
Or so they hope at NBC, which has had a nasty run at 10 p.m. Thursdays, where reimaginings of "Prime Suspect" and "The Firm" are among the shows that lately failed to draw a crowd. In the days of "ER," doctors owned that time slot (and they didn't even have to kill anyone, at least not on purpose).
Lecter's logged some time in the emergency room, but when we meet him in "Hannibal" (a prequel of sorts to Thomas Harris' "Red Dragon"), he's a psychiatrist in private practice. Informally recruited by the FBI, he's meant to be getting inside the head of Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), a profiler whose ability to get inside the heads of serial killers has left him a bit damaged.
After five episodes of "Hannibal," I can see how that happens.
Because no matter how beautifully the dead bodies are staged - and, like Dr. Lecter's dinners, the corpse presentations in "Hannibal" could be ripped from old issues of Gourmet magazine, if Gourmet had featured cannibalism - they're still meant to represent once-living people.
So, if I'm less amused by this than whoever chose to title those episodes "Aperitif," "Amuse-Bouche," "Potage," "Coquilles" and "Entrée," call me a party pooper.
Still, it's a gorgeous party, with hosts that include "Wonderfalls" star Caroline Dhavernas as a colleague of Will's and Laurence Fishburne ("CSI") as Will's boss, who also develops something of a therapeutic relationship with Lecter.
Tabloid crime reporter Freddy Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) has undergone a gender switch since "Red Dragon," and is now writing for a website, but Freddy's still the ethical equivalent of pond scum.
By contrast, "Hannibal" presents Lecter - whose extracurricular activities are going on under the FBI's very nose - as not just the refined monster of Harris' books, but as a killer who might still have a few things to offer the living.
On Twitter: @elgray