Credit: Phil Bray

Can bringing the Silence of the Lambs franchise to TV help rescue NBC?

Sources confirm the network has just made a deal with Pushing Daisies creator and former Heroes writer Bryan Fuller to create a broadcast series take on Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The deal calls for a straight-to-series order (no pilot) if NBC likes the script.

But can the extremely dark franchise based on Thomas Harris’ series of bestselling novels really work in primetime? Perhaps. While there are no details about the adaptation yet, we’re presumably looking at a police procedural here that’s not entirely unlike a twisted version of The Mentalist — a hero solving weekly crimes while a legendary serial killer remains at large.

The first trick is casting an effective Lecter (Anthony Hopkins’ performance is very memorable, if a bit hammy, especially when you go back and watch it today).

The second trick is pulling off the balancing act of making a show that’s dark enough to satisfy fans of the gory franchise while staying accessible enough to draw a broad audience in primetime. That’s a big one. NBC was hammered in the ratings this fall airing the high-concept Playboy Club — a show that couldn’t execute its adult-sounding premise on a PG-rated broadcast network. Of course, like it or not, it will be easier for a crime show to push the envelope with gore and violence in primetime than with sex.

What do you think?