WASHINGTON, January 21, 2013 —Tonight, The Following, starring Kevin Bacon, premieres at 9 p.m. on FOX. In the wake of Sandy Hook and a renewed discussion of violence in the media, The Following is already being criticized for its gory content. The show revolves around a charismatic serial killer with a cult following, and Bacon stars as the burned out FBI agent Ryan Hardy called out of retirement to pursue him.
The Poe-obsessed college professor Joe Carroll (played by James Purefoy), has been busy since agent Hardy put a stop to his killing spree nine years earlier. By the time Carroll escapes prison in a scene reminiscent of “Silence of the Lambs,” he has somehow managed to recruit a group of well-placed, devoted minions who are willing to do his bidding.
The plot unwinds like a Patricia Cornwell novel, punctuated with plenty of the gratuitous violence that’s become a trademark of Kevin Williamson, the show’s creator. Best known for the Scream movies, Williamson continues to obsess on his fascination with new and creative ways to shock the viewer.
Flawed but skilled cops chasing crafty serial killers has become a staple ingredient of TV police series now, so it comes as no surprise that FOX would capitalize on this tried-and-true formula yet again. It’s almost as if the creators of The Following took a poll on what type of violence sells best, and then built a series around this, perhaps hoping to steal a bit of the aura from Showtime’s Dexter.
Fox’s variation on this familiar theme seems intended as a tasty dish seasoned with a little bit of “Silence of the Lambs,” a piquant dash of Charlie Manson, and a savory dollop of “Scream.” These key ingredients are blended together, cooked to perfection, and then topped by an A-list Hollywood star hired to make the final product gore-tastic enough to attract the jaded palates of hardened police procedural fans.
I’ve been a fan of Kevin Bacon forever, so it’s hard to fault him for signing on to a steady TV gig like The Following. That doesn’t mean I approve of the level of violence the show exploits in its ratings chase. Anyone who’s even slightly squeamish will be peeking through their fingers at the show’s unwarranted glorification of violence and its questionable entertainment value.
The Following does not belong on network TV, and younger viewers should definitely be steered away from it. That said, the show will, no doubt, find an enthusiastic and devoted audience happy to let TV portray the kind of X-rated violence once relegated to best sellers and late night cable. Just be forewarned: the days of Joe Friday’s Dragnet are long gone.
All times are EST:
ABC: The Bachelor: (New) A volleyball game brings out the women’s true colors; Sean surprises AshLee and the two girls who joined them on their date with a performance by Eli Young Band; Sean makes a revelation.
CBS: How I Met Your Mother: (New) Barney begs Ted to continue seeing his much younger, much wilder girlfriend (Ashley Benson), even though Ted has nothing in common with her. Meanwhile, Robin must adjust to the power of the bling.
FOX: Bones: (New) Booth and Brennan go undercover as dance competitors, and the team investigates the death of a well-known archaeologist.
NBC: The Biggest Loser: (New) The contestants begin to find their rhythm and shed the pounds, but the end-of-the-week elimination looms.
CW: The Carrie Diaries: (New) New couple Carrie (AnnaSophia Robb) and Sebastian (Austin Butler) can’t seem to catch a break. Between being grounded and rival Donna’s (Chloe Bridges) sneaky attempts to break them apart, Carrie worries Sebastian will lose interest in her.
CBS: The Big Bang Theory: (Repeat) Leonard tries a scientific approach to seducing Penny, while the gang celebrates Halloween at Stuart’s comic-book store. Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin has a cameo.
CBS: Two Broke Girls: (New) The diner gang helps Max and Caroline bake throughout the night in order to fulfill a gigantic cupcake order.
FOX: The Following: (New) A former FBI agent is called out of retirement to track down an escaped serial killer.
CW: 90210: (New) Annie and Vanessa (guest star Arielle Kebbel) search for Liam after discovering that Ashley (guest star Natalie Morales) was falsely posing as his studio-hired bodyguard. Needing a break, Naomi goes on a road trip with Adrianna, only to have her wedding ring stolen.
CBS: Mike and Molly: (New) Mike prepares to spoil Molly for her birthday, but his plans go awry after he eats psychedelic gelato made by Victoria’s friend Tom.
ABC: Castle: (New) When the founder of an adult video franchise is murdered, Beckett and Castle are faced with a lengthy list of suspects; Castle is upset when Alexis starts a revealing video blog.
CBS: Hawaii Five-0: (New) When Chin is kidnapped in the night and dropped in the middle of Halawa Prison dressed as an inmate, he must fight for his life to escape before the other prisoners recognize him as Five-0.
NBC: Deception: (New) With Edward’s CFO job in jeopardy, Joanna gets closer to Julian. John Larroquette guest stars.
New episodes of:
Extreme Smuggling at 8 p.m. on DSC
Hard Rider at 8 p.m. on NGC
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills at 8 and 9 p.m. on BRAVO
Alaska State Troopers at 9 p.m. on NGC
Shipwreck Men at 9 pm. On DSC
Hoarders at 9 p.m. on A&E
Kourtney and Kim take Miami at 9 p.m. on E!
American Pickers at 9 p.m. on History Channel
Cake Boss: Next Great Baker at 9 p.m. on TLC
The Layover with Anthony Bourdain at 9 p.m. on Travel Channel
Intervention at 10 p.m. on A&E
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives at 10 p.m. on Food Channel
Pawn Stars at 10 and 10:30 p.m. on History Channel
Pete Rose: Hits & Mrs. at 10 and 10:30 p.m. on TLC
Hotel Impossible at 10 p.m. on Travel Channel
For movie lovers:
Braveheart on AMC
The American President on ENC
Barbershop on FLIX
Easy A on FX
Bachelor Party on IFC
Random Hearts on REELZ
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1
Joshua on SUND
Red Tails on HBO
We Bought a Zoo on HBO
The Revenant on MOMAX
The Bourne Supremacy on STARZ
Car Wash at 9:45 p.m. on FLIX
Air Force One at 10 p.m. on FLIX
Cold Turkey at 10 p.m. on TCM
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at 10:15 p.m. on IFC
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