'Clarice': How the CBS Series Links to 'The Silence of the Lambs'

Clarice will air on Thursdays from February 11, 2021 on CBS, three days before the 20th anniversary of when the character made her screen debut in The Silence of the Lambs. As Jodie Foster won an Oscar for the role, and the film is the last one to win the so-called 'big five' at the Oscars (Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor and Actress), anticipation is high for the CBS procedural.

The character of Clarice Starling, of course, is based on the Thomas Harris book of The Silence of the Lambs, in which Starling is a rookie FBI agent who talks to the imprisoned cannibal psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins in the movie.

Of course, Clarice and Hannibal have appeared across dozens of books, movies and TV series. The continued adventures of Hannibal and Clarice were told in the book and film Hannibal. The book controversially saw Hannibal and Clarice become lovers, something that the film, which replaced Foster with Julianne Moore, did not do.

Hannibal Lector, of course, has had an extended history all of his own. He first appeared in print without Clarice seven years before The Silence of the Lambs in Red Dragon, published in 1981. This book has been adapted twice, as Manhunter in 1986 (with Brian Cox as Hannibal) and as Red Dragon in 2002 with Hopkins. The character also appeared in the prequel book and film Hannibal Rising, as well as a three-season NBC show of his own with Mads Mikkelsen.

clarice cbs
Rebecca Breeds in 'Clarice.' CBS

As to where Clarice on CBS fits in this canon, the show is set after The Silence of the Lambs. However, the show is not based on Hannibal, but is a retelling of what Clarice's life looked like after catching Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs.

Notably, there is absolutely no mention of the cannibal psychiatrist in the CBS show. In fact, the show is legally unable to mention his name. The rights to Harris' characters are split between MGM (the makers of Clarice) and the Dino De Laurentiis Company (who made the TV show Hannibal). This means that the show has Clarice, her colleague Ardelia Mapp (Devyn Tyler), Deputy Assistant Attorney General Paul Krendler (Michael Cudlitz) and Buffalo Bill, but is unable to mention pretty much any character who starred in NBC's Hannibal. It seems like Clarice will not be sitting down for a meal of fava beans and a nice chianti any time soon.

Executive producer Alex Kurtzman said of this to Entertainment Weekly: "I'm still trying to understand how the rights are divided, but it's been quite liberating because we have no interest in writing about Hannibal—not because we didn't love the films and the show, but because it was done so well by so many people that it didn't feel fresh for us."

Clarice is set in 1993, the year after the events of Silence of the Lambs. The show sets this up in an early scene, which sees Clarice (Rebecca Breeds) debriefing about her ordeal with Buffalo Bill to a therapist. The only reference we get to Hannibal is a reference to how Clarice's previous therapist "ate his patients."

Other characters also cross over from the Oscar-winning movie. A key character in Clarice, for example, is U.S. senator's daughter Catherine Martin (Marnee Carpenter), who was one of Buffalo Bill's potential victims in the film. In the show, she is still trying to deal with the trauma of being trapped by the serial killer—though one of the ways she is trying to cope is by caring for Buffalo Bill's dog Precious, left behind when the killer died.

The choice of 1993 is key for the show, as it means it is set after a series of real-life tragedies like Waco and Ruby Ridge, plus the first bombing of the World Trade Center. Kurtzmann said of this to EW: "The FBI has just had their asses handed to them, and that puts a tremendous amount of pressure on Clarice and all the characters in the FBI building."

Clarice is airing Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET / 9 p.m. CT on CBS.