Why We Are Not Following The Following

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Guest post by skippy the bush kangaroo (@skippybkroo)

nobody likes good tv as much as we do, and nobody is as thrilled with the evolution of long-form story-telling on television as we are. add that to the fact that mrs. skippy loves kevin bacon, and we were incredibly excited to see the new fox tv series starring mr. bacon, known as "the following."

 photo following.jpg

"the following" which airs on mondays nights on fox-tv, tells the tale of an imprisoned serial killer played by james purefoy, who manages to communicate with his cultish acolytes on the outside to manipulate them into gruesome, bloody and shocking murders at his behest, like some sort of cross between charles manson and hannibal lecter. bacon plays the fbi agent who originally caught purefoy's character, and is now back on the case to try to figure out...wait for it..."the following."

now, we have no problem with explicit violence in service of a good scary or interesting story. we think breaking bad is one of the greatest piece of popular entertainment of all time, and we are big fans of dexter, justified, and the walking dead as well. but the difference between those afore-mentioned shows, the following, is simply this: "the following" sucks.

and it sucks in a big, big way. firstly, all the cops are really, really stupid. secondly, all the bad guys are really, really smart, and really, really evil. and that's about it. what other, little characterization there is seems to be lifted wholesale from a thousand previous police procedurals (bacon's character is world-weary! and alcoholic! purefoy's character is charismatic! and handsome! the black guy gets killed! almost right away!).

but wait! there's explicit violence, just like on those cable shows! stabbings! immolations! eye-gouging! and all in the name of edgar allen poe, who is supposedly the inspiration for all these killings, in the worst mis-reading of the works of american literary giant since disney animated the legend of sleepy hollow.

the problem with all this gore-nography, as we call it, is that there's nothing else very interesting in the show to hang it on. breaking bad isn't about drug dealers killing each other; it's an intricate study of the moral breakdown of a man already being beaten by the system. dexter isn't about slicing people up, it's a complicated analysis of the definitions of good and evil within each of us, asking if the indulgence of one can serve the other. and walking dead has zombies, so...

we expected so much more from kevin williamson, the creator and executive producer of the following. williamson wrote the scream films, which happily played with the tropes of horror movies even as they worked as a horror movies themselves. but in the following, williamson doesn't do anything with horror/serial killer tropes, other than steal them from thomas harris and criminal minds. even ryan murphy at least has fun juggling horror tropes around in american horror story. williamson seems to be writing this crap in his sleep, or else farming it out to some junior high creative writing class somewhere.

last week's episode was a prime example: the fbi followed (no pun intended) the clues to a specific individual's house. he wasn't home, but his wife was. the fbi interrogated her and decided she didn't know anything about the murderous cult her husband was involved with. now, at this point, we literally shouted at the tv "yeah, sure she doesn't! like paterno didn't know about sundusky!" but the fbi let her go back to her house, and sent one agent (the afore-mentioned one black guy in the cast) to guard her. even worse, he felt really safe turning his back on her in the kitchen where they keep all those knives and cutting implements. well, if you couldn't see his extremely bloody death coming a mile away, then we've got an original story about killing a man and hiding his still-beating heart under the floorboards to sell you.

there is something to be said for the subplot of two straight (bad) guys who pretended to be gay to get close to the ex-wife of purefoy's character in order to kidnap her son, only to later realize that maybe they liked being gay, but there's an evil girl involved who doesn't like them being gay, so she stabs one guy, who goes out and kidnaps an innocent lady and beats her up and keeps her in the basement. well, ok, there's really nothing to be said for that subplot, now that we write it out and look at it.

we are sorrier than you know to say this show is a turkey. we like to think that television has entered a second golden, or at least a silver, age of story-telling, with shows that demand actual attention paid by its audience, and multiple views of every episode to suss out the nuance and layers of human interaction. lost, the sopranos, fringe, as well as the shows mentioned above, are great examples of complex, substantive examinations of human folly.

"the following" is just a pale imitation, a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing. if you ask us if we are going to keep watching it, we'd quote poe's raven.

nevermore.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jessica.fletcher.735 Jessica Fletcher

    Have to agree this is the worst use of bacon in the world. But what else do you expect from a channel that cancelled firefly? Nice review!

  • http://www.facebook.com/raymond.burns.5680 Raymond Burns

    Great review. This show has been on a down hill slide since about ep. 3

    I am now hate watching it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bob.slob.779 Rorz Chach

    great review...I couldn't even get through the pilot..I reached serial killer movie cliche overload in the first twenty minutes...I was pretty excited to see this too after hearing bacon talk it up as another entry into the newly evolved format of television...LOL what a pile of crap.

  • Hard Little Machine

    No the worst thing is that it sees itself as a TV version of a YouTube version of a TV show. A segment runs, AT BEST, 3.5 minutes between 2 minute commercial breaks. I swear it must violate some FCC regulation for maximum allowable commercials per hour.

  • Icarus8

    And another reason why "The Following" sucks is... their understanding of tactics is laughably bad. I don't know why I'm still watching this show, but perhaps it's just to marvel at the complete stupidity of everyone in the fighting/shooting scenes. Just in tonight's episode, an FBI agent stood right in front of a hotel room door, knowing that bad guys with UZI's were directly outside, then they shot him through the door. (Though his behavior was stupid, in the real world those 9mm rounds wouldn't penetrate any solid door very well, either.) Kevin Bacon peered out of a house window, from a brightly lit bedroom, into the darkness outside, making a perfect target of himself. And one of the bad guys stopped directly in front of a sliding glass door while snooping around the house, where he got blasted with a shotgun. Then Bacon left that wide open entrance completely unguarded as he dragged his injured buddy deep into the house. The scenes are completely contrived in their setup, and even if we successfully suspend our disbelief, they still then unfold in preposterous ways. For f*cks sake, hire a SWAT or military expert when you make this type of show.

  • tom lewis

    Such a waste of Kevin Bacon. Everything you said was true and the worst part is nothing good ever happens. I just thought Hannibal was good until I watch this serial killer. Maybe they can turn the bad guys into zombies and Bacon and his crew can kill em?

  • Snapps izking

    Good article! I love watching The Following and there have
    been some best episodes this season. I’m always excited to watch what’s going
    to happen next and I can’t get enough of the show.  I never liked working at DISH in the evening
    while my shows were on.  It’s been hard
    trying to record all my primetime shows and not having enough DVRs to do it
    with. This pain’s a thing of the past, now that I upgraded to the DISH Hopper
    DVR.  I can enable the PrimeTime Anytime
    feature, which will record the 4 major networks during primetime hours on one
    tuner. I can say good bye to the headaches and frustration of my timer
    conflicts which’s enhanced my TV experience.

  • http://www.facebook.com/peter.cacciatore.14 Peter Cacciatore

    Another reason this show sucks is I've heard that all the characters except the main character are completely expendable at any time! In other words, you can be having a story arc about a victim and then you find out at the end that they're dead or something. That effectively makes the whole episode POINTLESS! I'm surprised they haven't killed his son yet! Now, if they just did this once or twice, than okay, but I got the vibe that this is going to be a common thing, so why should  I even bother watching the episodes in the first place!? For the 10 minutes worth of footage that actually moves the story? 

    Also, they should of renamed this show, "Plot Convenience" because I swear every single blasted thing that happens to the good guys is WAY too convenient! Is everyone in the world part of this "Following"? I agree with this article, why are all the good guys dumb and in my opinion, few and far between!? It's just ridiculous! How does a guy get control of so many people ONLINE! ON-FREAKING-LINE! How do you convert so many people that way in the same area! Teaching people to be serial killers online is not exactly something that can be easily done you know!

    Lastly, why must every single god damn crime show be so dark! This show is dark just because it can! How is that entertainment!? What are we, back in Ancient times when people killing each other was considered fun to watch!? I don't see why this show has to be so graphic, you can tell this story without that crap! But whatever, idiots are idiots!