With the premiere of “The Following,” Fox has at the very least made the parlor game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” a heck of a lot easier. Promoted heavily over the last few months on the network, Fox’s serial killer drama created by Kevin Williamson (“Scream,” “Vampire Diaries”) is Kevin Bacon’s first foray into the world of weekly television. Playing an ex-FBI agent that took down serial killer Dr. Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) several years before the pilot, Bacon’s “Agent Hardy” is called back into duty when the killer escapes prison. Although Hardy was able to take down the killer before, now he must track down an army of amateur killers inspired and taught by Carroll during his time in prison. These killers “follow” Carroll’s example religiously and give the show both its title and week-to-week plotline.
Overall the show has great actors and a very interesting “Dan Brown” style mythology with the serial killer being an English professor and his passion for killing inspired by Edgar Alan Poe, but after watching the pilot a second time I started to notice several cracks within the makeup of the show.
In the opening scene of Fox’s “The Following,” Kevin Bacon’s character fills up a water bottle with vodka. His fellow FBI colleagues all seem to notice the problem throughout the episode but never seem to address the problem. Instead they ask if they can get him another bottle, offer him mints and make cryptic allustions to his “medical leave.” “The Following” itself has a similar problem to its alcoholic main protagonist. Just like the character sipping from the bottle throughout the day, “The Following” is “drunk” on every rudimentary trope, cliché and tradition in the horror/serial killer genre. Just like the characters in the show, though, the plot and the show’s creators decide to turn away and play the tone of the show incredibly serious in places that could benefit from some self-awareness.
Seemingly every character that no one would expect but could conveniently benefit the plot by being a traitor, turns out to be one. Every character that could utter clichés such as, “I’m getting too old for this,” or, “that’s against protocol!” does so. Even a host of flashbacks are prompted by characters looking into the distance. The pilot is well-produced and polished, making for a highly entertaining hour of television, but the subject matter and the way in which it is presented has been explored in countless movies and shows before it. Without a new angle or acknowledging that it is engaging in familiar territory, the entire show suffers in terms of quality and ends up engaging viewers on a level similar to a particularly gory “Law and Order: SVU” or “Criminal Minds” episode.
Regardless of its trope nature, I have a feeling “The Following” might end up being fairly successful for Fox. Even though it was promoted as (and had the potential to be) a high concept “cable drama” broadcast on a major network, the actual product is more along the lines of countless other network “cop and killer” shows that maintain strong audiences and garner marginal success.
Overall, the show disappointed my expectations and can be at times cliché almost to a point meriting laughter, but there are plenty enjoyable moments and intense serial killer dramatics so the show is worth checking out if that is something you enjoy or are just looking for an entertaining new show.