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The latest hourlong from writer-producer Kevin Williamson, who earlier created long-running dramas “Dawson’s Creek” and “The Vampire Diaries,” “The Following” feels like what you’d get if you forced into a blender Thomas Harris’ “Red Dragon” and its sequel “Silence of the Lambs,” along with a dash of Charles Manson and pinch of “Criminal Minds”-calibre gore. What emerges to my eyes is a bloody mush of great actors unable to overcome bad writing.
Those who have never seen the screen adaptations of the Harris novels may better enjoy this clumsy knock-off. Sadly I was hugely distracted by the huge red “PLAGIARISM” sign flashing in my brain.
Kevin Bacon (“X-Men: First Class”) tackles the role of Will Graha … er Ryan Hardy, an emotionally scarred former FBI agent lured out of retirement to deal with a serial killer – a serial killer who almost killed Hardy just before Hardy captured him.
The great James Purefoy (wonderfully murderous as Mark Antony in HBO’s “Rome”) plays Hannibal Lect … er, Joe Carroll, who murdered and consum … er, mutiliated 14 women before Hardy put him away.
Carroll has a lot of bloodthirsty, not-jailed acolytes, none of them apparently named The Tooth Fairy or Buffalo Bill.
Like “Red Dragon” FBI profiler Will Graham, Hardy initially worked with a talkative fellow to investigate serial murders, unaware that that the verbose one was himself a serial murderer.
If you look beyond the CBS-ish primetime gore, you’ll find a lot of silly, a lot of nonsensical, and a lot of really quite unlikely.
Much is made of Carroll’s affection for Edgar Allen Poe; it’s a pity Poe isn’t available to shore up this series’ idiot teleplays.
I have much higher hopes for Bryan “Dead Like Me” Fuller’s “Hannibal” series due on NBC later this year. It employs a far smarter, far wittier showrunner and has the good manners to follow the real Lecter and not some charmless rip-off.
... a series riddled with clichés, but without anyone to point them out along the way. … it's basically Hannibal Lecter as cult leader, only if Lecter were somehow more pretentious and less charming (the downgrade from Anthony Hopkins to Purefoy), constantly dropping Poe references in an attempt to seem deeper and more meaningful than he actually is — or than "The Following" actually is. … the hollowness of "The Following" means that the only thing there is to focus on is the actual storytelling, and it's lacking. …
... … there's the usual showy deconstruction of scary-story clichés, but that deconstruction just draws attention to how hollow this project is. …
... There is some suspense here, even if it is mainly because the violence when it comes is so swift and sickening. But the show still feels slack. Is it a case of a serial-killer cliché too far? …
… hard to turn off and even harder to watch. ... doesn’t offer an original villain, merely a variation on a familiar model. … Like so many prime-time shows it traffics in gruesome depictions of death, but it also takes its violence seriously. And that’s not such a bad thing these days.
... It is a Very Big Deal that Bacon has come to television; anyone who saw his performance as the self-loathing pedophile in 2004's "The Woodsman" knows that when a story goes dark, Bacon does not mess around. He may be playing a familiar character, but he plays the heck out of him. …
... falls back on so many clichés … The writing and characterizations are never even remotely believable. … The more you watch the show, the worse it becomes, because the worse and more predictable the gore becomes. …
... Keep your wits about you, lest you mistake Fox’s new serial killer drama “The Following” for a good television show. … “The Following’s” fundamental problem is neither its gore nor its brutality; it’s the display of arrogance. Tangled up in easily avoidable clichés of the genre, this is a show that is entirely too pleased with itself and its pretentious concept. It’s not that we’ve become numb. It’s that we’ve become dulled.
... If Hardy is sort of a generic, damaged hero, Carroll is a somewhat more inspired literature-loving lunatic. But the most intriguing characters are Carroll's followers. Through the show's first four episodes, an unexpected love triangle develops among three of Carroll's devotees that's tinged with unexpected sexual politics and questions about sexual identity. It's the only aspect of "The Following" that feels fresh. Too bad this plot only serves as a side dish; the main course is the same old reheated serial killer/crime solver hash.
... simply goes for more generic thrills, using a lot of horror-story clichés … It’s compelling TV that doesn’t want you to think along the way.
... some plot twists seem implausible at best, others are overdone or gratuitous. But some implausibility comes with the horror/suspense genre, and there's no question Williamson has mastered it …
... delivers a full-throttle ride that, four episodes in, proves twisty, unpredictable and tense. Weighing those assets against the unrelenting grimness, the series deserves its own loyal following, despite qualms about its durability.…
… as long as no one is fooled into thinking The Following is as creatively excellent as a top-notch cable show. It’s not even close. …
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