When in doubt, blame the English majors!
The new, ultra-violent Fox drama "The Follow ing" (9 p.m., TV-14) is notable for at least three reasons. It marks the return of Kevin Bacon to the small screen for the first time since he was a young soap opera star. It's also the brainchild of executive producer Kevin Williamson, who created "Daw son's Creek" and wrote "Scream." It also attempts to work literary references into its plots, something you don't confront on every police procedural.
Bacon plays ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy, whose fame is based on single-handedly capturing serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), an esteemed and beloved professor of literature with a special interest in the lurid and romantic works of Edgar Allan Poe.
Carroll stuck a knife in Hardy's chest before his capture, nicking an artery and sending him into surgery. Some believe that his bad heart and his need to write a best-seller about the Carroll case caused Hardy to quit the FBI. But we learn that a dalliance with the killer's fetching wife, Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea), had something to do with Hardy's
It's clear that with his bad (or is it telltale?) heart and sullen personality, Hardy is a damaged person. It's not giving too much away to reveal that prison bars cannot contain Carroll's evil and that he has
created an army of deluded
disciples to carry out his vile wishes. Having already written one book about Carroll, Hardy is reluctantly drawn into the next chapter of his macabre story. Is he the author, or merely a character? That's the whole point of following "The Following."
On the plus side, Williamson has lost none of his skills at making audiences squirm and jump out of their seats. It's also nice to see a show steeped in the works of a 19th-century American author (Poe), with its main characters named after two classic writers (Lewis
Carroll and Thomas Hardy).
But bookish references will carry it only so far. "The Fol lowing" requires its audience to sit still for an inordinate amount of casual sadism. There's a fine line between a wounded character and a boring one, and the jury is still out on Kevin Bacon's Ryan Hardy. And there may be too much eye gouging and neck slitting to endure to see if Hardy gets any more interesting.
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Kevin McDonough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.