The latest CBS drama series “Clarice” is already a little less than perfect without any structure. Anyone familiar with the broadcast network’s chosen genre of rote crime procedurals would likely be pleased (though not thrilled), and anyone seeking more should beware. Even the most averse to pop culture are likely to come into “Clarice” with some prior experience.
Only the latter serves as backstory here, but they’re all reasonable comparison points, and they’re all vastly superior to “Clarice.” There’s the recent “Hannibal” TV show, the less recent “Hannibal” movie, and Jonathan Demme’s Oscar-winning 1991 masterpiece, “The Silence of the Lambs”; only the latter acts as a backdrop here, but they’re all rational reference spots, and they’re all superior to “Clarice.”
The continuation of Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet’s Buffalo Bill quickly places its lead (now played by Rebecca Breeds) as an outsider at the FBI who is hated by jealous peers for her widely publicized experience capturing a serial killer, picking up a year after Clarice Starling tracked down Buffalo Bill. (The show is unable to mention Hannibal Lecter by name due to rights issues.) Her boss thinks she’s lucky, the press follows her around like a star, and she only wants to get on with the job at hand: assisting victims.
Clarice will solve case after case in order to prove herself to the higher-ups, her fellow team members, and herself over the course of God know how many seasons — which works out well with the show’s case-of-the-week style, bolstered ever so slightly by a serialized conspiracy storyline. Apprehend the criminals! Solve the puzzles! Make friends with your teammates! Does this ring a bell? It should, and that’s on purpose.
You won’t be able to tell Clarice Starling apart from the long list of not-so-special agents on TV in less than 45 minutes. Even if you can stand Clarice Starling being twisted into a stereotypical TV officer, there’s more character tinkering to come. More logical leaps are expected after that. The pilot episode is a jumble of exposition, allusions, and illogical storytelling.
As the pilot progresses, it becomes increasingly apparent that the most compelling elements of Clarice’s story are being overlooked. Since it represented the most pivotal moment in its protagonist’s (and, possibly, Hannibal’s) life, “The Silence of the Lambs” left such an impression.
As a result, the rote nature of her current story just reinforces how dynamic her previous story was, and reminds viewers that they’re being asked to remember Clarice from previous stories while welcoming a new Clarice who is nothing like her.
There’s something spiritually depressing about having a charismatic, often-inspiring character constantly boxed in. Even if you don’t know anything about her history, “Clarice” is more than able to crush your dreams.