Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday—Is “The Following” Worth Following?

Television’s winter premiere season is officially here!  With all of the new TV programs airing these next few months, Amber West and I have a ton of homework to do.  We had so much fun last week posting a dual review, we’ve decided to do it again—we’re reviewing the same show!  Will Amber and I agree or disagree after watching Fox’s new primetime serial drama, The Following?

In The Following, former FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon, um… from Footloose) must track down serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy from Rome)—again.  He first reaches out to Carroll’s ex-wife, a woman Hardy slept with, and then he informs a former witness and surviving victim of Carroll’s crimes that her nightmare has escaped prison and is more than likely headed her direction.

There’s only one problem; like most serial killers, Carroll has fans now… people who are willing to do anything to help him succeed.

It takes very little to pique my interest when a new pilot premieres on television; I’ll watch pretty much anything.  But there are a few things that instantly attract me to a new show: the concept, the actors and actresses, and the attention to detail, particularly the music.  The Following had me at “hello” if that’s even possible for a TV program.

Agent Hardy is damaged… but no one knows Carroll as well as he does.

First, the serial drama follows the “cat and mouse” game between Carroll and Hardy.  The idea of a former FBI agent with issues working to track down a demented killer he once captured is right up my alley.  Next, the series stars, as already mentioned, Hollywood great Kevin Bacon.  I can’t even remember the last time Mr. Bacon starred on a TV series, if he ever has, which tells me the storyline really captured his attention as well.  And third, the pilot episode began with Marilyn Manson’s rendition of “Sweet Dreams.”  The musical introduction of this song grabs me every time… and the lyrics fit perfectly with the Carroll/Hardy scene at the end of the pilot.

So, is The Following worth following?

For me, the answer is an astounding yes!  Although I usually prefer mysteries and whodunits, the premise of not only the “cat and mouse” game between Carroll and Hardy, but also the concept that Carroll’s crazies, or followers, will do absolutely anything and everything to convey Carroll’s messages is quite unique to television—and frightening, considering there are people in our world who worship some of the worst criminals for all the wrong reasons.

Carroll even looks crazy…

Viewers are immediately taken into the mind and history of the two main characters.  The protagonist, Hardy, is now a retired FBI agent, who is also a recovering alcoholic and a man fighting to stay healthy (he has a bad heart).  And the antagonist, Carroll, who’s not only a murderer, worked previously as a literature professor obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe.

“Carroll was obsessed with the Romantic Period… in particular, his hero, Edgar Allan Poe.  And like Poe, he believed in the insanity of art, that it had to be felt.  He didn’t just eviscerate fourteen female students, he was making art.  He cut out his victims’ eyes as a nod to his favorite works of Poe: ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ and ‘The Black Cat.’ See, Poe believed the eyes are our identity, windows to our soul.  To classify him (Carroll) as a picarist would be too simplistic.” ~ Hardy about Carroll to a group of FBI agents

We know immediately that Carroll has escaped prison and Hardy is responsible for locking him away.  But how did Hardy catch Carroll in the first place?  The Following uses a series of flashbacks to tell the backstory of these two characters, and probably the most fascinating to me was the fact Hardy used Carroll’s wife (Claire, played  by Natalie Zea from Justified and Californication), who also happens to be a professor, as an expert during his case.  Hardy visited her on multiple occasions for help and she unknowingly led him in the direction of her husband.  Clearly, this gives Carroll reason to haunt and torture both Hardy and Claire… and I’m sure the fact that the two shared a romantic connection doesn’t help either.

The agents react to one of the gruesome scenes left behind by one of Carroll’s followers…

The Following’s supporting cast is filled with familiar faces: Maggie Grace (the Taken movies) as Sarah, one of Carroll’s survivors; Shawn Ashmore (the X-Men movies) as FBI agent Weston; and Jeananne Goossen (Alcatraz) as FBI agent Mason.  And I must confess, I thought the actor playing agent Weston was also the actor who plays Jinks on Warehouse 13, but it turns out it’s not—it’s his twin brother!  Just a tad bit of trivia… but I digress.

Watching The Following is similar to enjoying a major motion picture thriller.  It’s intense, suspenseful, somewhat dark, and it keeps viewers on the edge of their seats with an occasional reason to jump out of their skin.  Toss in the Edgar Allan Poe references, who might just be my favorite poet, and I can’t help but award the new Fox serial drama with the GTV rating.  Fox has themselves a groundbreaking television series, appropriate for viewing after dark with a perfectly grilled bone-in filet, steaming broccoli, and a glass of fine red wine.

Just one of the many Edgar Allan Poe references… and yes, that’s written in blood.

Now, before we go, Amber and I thought we’d play our own version of the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”  For fun.  Well, actually because our great friend Jen Kirchner suggested we do so.  Anyway, the popular game challenges people to find the shortest path between themselves, or an arbitrary actor, and the Hollywood star.  So, here goes…

When I was younger, I worked at a country club in my hometown, where one of the members happened to be “Rooster” McConaughey, brother of Matthew McConaughey.  During a golf tournament one summer, I had the pleasure of not only serving the southern hottie with ice-cold beverages, but I also shared a brief conversation that included his ever-so-famous “Alright, Alright, Alright.”  No joke.  Anyway, back in 1996, Matthew worked on a John Grisham adaptation (A Time to Kill) with Kiefer Sutherland, who worked with Mr. Bacon in 1992 on the film A Few Good Men.

And that’s my “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”  I’m only three degrees away… whatever that means. 🙂

What do you think?  Have you watched The Following?  I’d love to hear from you!  And if you’d like to play “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” try this fun link: http://oracleofbacon.org/ and please share your results in the comments!

Now click over to Amber’s new & improved blog and see what she thinks about the new Fox “cat and mouse” TV series.  Did we agree or disagree?  Trust me; we usually have very different tastes in our television viewing pleasure… if our dual reviews last week didn’t convince everyone.

Come back next week when Amber and I review something…  Stay tuned!

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV):It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (NyQuil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech

5 Replies to “Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday—Is “The Following” Worth Following?”

  1. Yay, we’re both three degrees of Bacon! I’m friends with a guy who worked on the crew of 24 with Kiefer Sutherland…Flatliners…Bacon. I haven’t watched the Pilot of The Following yet, but I intend to. It’s very interesting to see the different takes from you and Amber. Thanks!

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