Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – The Following

With 2013 coming to an end, and the new winter television schedule right around the corner, I have decided to take a break (of sorts) here on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday.  I say “of sorts” because instead of reviewing a fresh new series, I want to feature a show that I am looking forward to returning in the 2014 TV season.

And one that I am most excited about?  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.

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 in 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, who 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

As the pilot begins, we learn immediately that Carroll has escaped from prison and Hardy was 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 flashback shows us that 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 investigation.  Hardy had visited her on multiple occasions for help in tracking down the killer and she unknowingly led him in the direction of her own 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; Jeananne Goossen (Alcatraz) as FBI agent Mason; and Warren Cole (Common Law) as Roderick.

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—they are twin brothers!  Just a tad bit of trivia…

Oh, and if it’s even possible to fall in love with a bad guy, Roderick is that man.  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 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, steamed broccoli, and a glass of fine red wine.

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

And just when you think the story has wrapped up, as implied during the season one finale, they leave us with just a little taste of more to come…  I can’t wait to see what The Following has in store for us in the new season!  And with almost an entirely new cast, including Connie Nielsen (Gladiator and Basic), James McDaniel (NYPD Blue), Jessica Stroup (the newer version of 90210), and Keith Carradine (Dexter and Damages)!

The Following returns in a two night event this January (Sunday the 19th and Monday the 20th).  Why we’ve had to wait so long is beyond me.  But I’ve waited this long and I can wait a few more weeks…

Oh, and I just thought the Edgar Allan Poe masks were creepy in season one.  The Joe Carroll masks in the season two commercials are even worse!

What do you think?  Have you watched The Following?  I’d love to hear from you! 

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
Inedible TV: Exactly how it sounds…

*****

Tiffany A. White is the author of the YA mystery Football Sweetheart series available on Kindle and Nook.  She is available for contact via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or via email at tiffany {at} tiffanyawhite {dot} com.

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

Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Viewers’ Voice: Which TV Review Has Hooked You?

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, it is officially the holiday season.  Before we know it, 2013 will be here and we’ll all be left wondering where December went.  With all of the madness expected to surround us these next few weeks, Amber West and I have decided to switch things up again with today’s Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday reviews.

Instead of reviewing the remaining 2012 fall television programs we’ve yet to cover, we’ve decided to ask our viewers to participate in our Viewers’ Voice Special over the next few weeks.

Playing is simple.  Answer the below question and tell us why in the comments.

“Thanks to Amber’s/Tiffany’s (choose one) Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday reviews, I am now hooked on this television series: ______.”

To show everyone how it works, Amber and I are each going to choose one of the others blog posts that applies to this week’s question.  So, here goes….

“Thanks to Amber’s Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday reviews, I am now hooked on the television series: Scandal.

ABC’s Scandal, now it its second season, takes the word “scandal” to an entirely different level.

The series stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, a former White House communications director who is now operating her very own private crisis management firm.  The character of Olivia is not completely fictional… she is loosely based on Judy Smith, one of President George H. W. Bush’s former press aides.  In return, Ms. Smith serves the Shonda Rhimes’ production as a consultant and co-executive producer.

But, back to the show…

So, what makes Scandal so scandalous?

Well, first there’s Olivia…

Olivia Pope can “fix” any problem, except maybe for her ongoing love affair with the President of the United States (President Fitzgerald Grant, played by Tony Goldwyn).  Everyone inside the President’s circle, including his wife (First Lady Mellie Grant, played by Bellamy Young), his Chief of Staff (Cyrus, played by Jeff Perry), and his entire Secret Service staff, knows about Olivia and President Grant.

Looks scandalous to me!

The mere fact that Olivia and the President share a romantic link is scandalous, but it’s not the most shocking twist to the story.  So, what makes this love affair even more outrageous and fun?  That would be the relationship shared between the First Lady and the President’s mistress.

Olivia’s and Mellie’s ability to work together and manipulate the President into doing exactly what they want makes for some of the best chemistry on the show… despite the fact the two women really don’t like each other.  These two, especially when realizing one can benefit from the other, are very scandalous!

Oh, and I should mention that Ms. Washington has stated in television interviews that Judy Smith did NOT have an affair with President Bush.  The writers and creators use Ms. Smith’s professional expertise to tell their stories… not her personal life.  Scandal is fictional television.

So, what else makes Scandal so scandalous?

Not only is Olivia keeping secrets, so is her team.

To complete her firm, Olivia hires a very qualified staff; a staff that successfully fixes the firm’s client’s problems, but that also brings their very own issues to the table: Columbus Short plays Harrison, a lawyer who Olivia helped escape serious jail-time for insider trading while he worked for a very corrupt man; the fabulous Guillermo Diaz plays Huck, the group’s computer expert who is haunted by his past… a past where he worked as a contract killer for the C.I.A.; Darby Stanchfield plays Abby, the team’s investigator and a survivor from an abusive ex who also happens to be from a very well “connected” family; and Katie Lowes plays Quinn (formerly Lindsey), a lawyer who Olivia helped beat a bombing charge that labeled her a domestic terrorist in the eyes of many Americans.

Eavesdropping… Breaking and Entering… Never an issue for Olivia’s team. They do what it takes to “fix” the problem.

See?  Even Olivia’s team’s backgrounds are sordid…

So, what else makes Scandal so scandalous?

Characters can only interest viewers to a certain point; the rest is left up to the writers…

To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with the name Shonda Rhimes until Amber reviewed Scandal last year.  As much TV as I watch, my regular viewing schedule does not include Grey’s Anatomy or Private Practice, two of Ms. Rhimes’ most popular creations to date.  But, now, I know who Ms. Rhimes is and what she is capable of.

I don’t want to give too much away about Scandal’s scandalous plot, but I do want to say that each and every episode draws me in, holds me in tight so that I don’t miss a word, and leaves me with my mouth gaping open in awe at the end.  The series is classified as a procedural in that each week Olivia and her team take on a new client and help “make their problems go away.”  But, Scandal can also be classified as a serial drama, or a nighttime soap opera, with an ongoing story that keeps getting better and even more scandalous with each passing week.

Scandal has drama; it has politics; it has love; and it has A LOT of scandalous twists and turns….

Now, it’s your turn: “Thanks to Amber’s/Tiffany’s (choose one) Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday reviews, I am now hooked on this television series: ______.”  Be sure to include why you’re hooked!  We’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to click over to Amber’s new & improved blog and see how she filled in the blanks…

Come back next week when Amber and I continue our Viewers’ Voice WatchWed series….  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

Tele-Tuesday: Scandal-ous Television

It’s been no secret that a few of last year’s freshman television series swept me off my feet… particularly, American Horror Story, Person of Interest, and Revenge.  Today, I’m adding a fourth program to this list—Scandal.

ABC’s Scandal, now it its second season, takes the word “scandal” to an entirely different level.

The series stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, a former White House communications director who is now operating her very own private crisis management firm.  The character of Olivia is not completely fictional… she is loosely based on Judy Smith, one of President George H. W. Bush’s former press aides.  In return, Ms. Smith serves the Shonda Rhimes’ production as a consultant and co-executive producer.

But, back to the show…

So, what makes Scandal so scandalous?

Well, first there’s Olivia…

Olivia Pope can “fix” any problem, except maybe for her ongoing love affair with the President of the United States (President Fitzgerald Grant, played by Tony Goldwyn).  Everyone inside the President’s circle, including his wife (First Lady Mellie Grant, played by Bellamy Young), his Chief of Staff (Cyrus, played by Jeff Perry), and his entire Secret Service staff, knows about Olivia and President Grant.

Looks scandalous to me…

The mere fact that Olivia and the President share a romantic link is scandalous, but it’s not the most shocking twist to the story.  So, what makes this love affair even more outrageous and fun?  That would be the relationship shared between the First Lady and the President’s mistress.

Olivia’s and Mellie’s ability to work together and manipulate the President into doing exactly what they want makes for some of the best chemistry on the show… despite the fact the two women really don’t like each other.  These two, especially when realizing one can benefit from the other, are very scandalous!

Do NOT stand in this First Lady’s way…

Oh, and I should mention that Ms. Washington has stated in television interviews that Judy Smith did NOT have an affair with President Bush.  The writers and creators use Ms. Smith’s professional expertise to tell their stories… not her personal life.  Scandal is fictional television.

So, what else makes Scandal so scandalous?

Not only is Olivia keeping secrets, so is her team.

To complete her firm, Olivia hires a very qualified staff; a staff that successfully fixes the firm’s client’s problems, but that also brings their very own issues to the table: Columbus Short plays Harrison, a lawyer who Olivia helped escape serious jail-time for insider trading while he worked for a very corrupt man; the fabulous Guillermo Diaz plays Huck, the group’s computer expert who is haunted by his past… a past where he worked as a contract killer for the C.I.A.; Darby Stanchfield plays Abby, the team’s investigator and a survivor from an abusive ex who also happens to be from a very well “connected” family; and Katie Lowes plays Quinn (formerly Lindsey), a lawyer who Olivia helped beat a bombing charge that labeled her a domestic terrorist in the eyes of many Americans.

Breaking and Entering is never a concern of Olivia and her team…

See?  Even Olivia’s team’s backgrounds are sordid…

So, what else makes Scandal so scandalous?

Characters can only interest viewers to a certain point; the rest is left up to the writers…

To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with the name Shonda Rhimes until my Wednesday blogging partner, Amber West, reviewed Scandal last year.  As much TV as I watch, my regular viewing schedule does not include Grey’s Anatomy or Private Practice, two of Ms. Rhimes’ most popular creations to date.  But, now, I know who Ms. Rhimes is and what she is capable of.

I don’t want to give too much away about Scandal’s scandalous plot, but I do want to say that each and every episode draws me in, holds me in tight so that I don’t miss a word, and leaves me with my mouth gaping open in awe at the end.  The series is classified as a procedural in that each week Olivia and her team take on a new client and help “make their problems go away.”  But, Scandal can also be classified as a serial drama, or a nighttime soap opera, with an ongoing story that keeps getting better and even more scandalous with each passing week.

Scandal has drama; it has politics; it has love; and it has A LOT of scandalous twists and turns….

Oh, and before I go, I have to mention Josh Malina and his portrayal of Assistant U.S. Attorney David Rosen.  Rosen and Olivia have a love/hate relationship… they respect each other’s brilliance, but disagree with each other’s antics.  Before Scandal, I didn’t even know Mr. Malina’s name (although I do remember him from his guest appearance on Psych a few years ago).  However, today, I know him (his name, we’ve never met beyond sharing words on Twitter).  I applaud the writers for giving Rosen what appears to be a larger part in season two AND I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us as it pertains to his investigation into Olivia and his recent romance with Abby!

There it is again… more scandal for Scandal!

Will Rosen get what he needs to expose Olivia?

In case anyone is having difficulty understanding the underlying message I am trying to portray in this blog post, it is that Scandal is very scandalous AND definitely worthy of a watch!

What do you think?  Do you watch Scandal?  Who’s your favorite character (mine is Huck!)?   I’d love to hear from you!       

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