To read many of the reviews of “The Following,” the new Fox serial killer drama starring Kevin Bacon that debuted last night, one would presume it is worse trash than “Two Broke Girls” polluted by “The Bachelor.” In fact, it is stylish, original, well-acted, infinitely more interesting than dramas the same critics have fallen all over themselves praising like “The Killing,” (which is “Twin Peaks” without the kinkiness and even slower, if that is possible), and scary, which is important, because “The Following” is a horror series, just as “Silence of the Lambs” is a horror movie. What seem to scare many of the soapbox critics more is that the series is on Fox, which, after all, is evil.
The TV reviewers, in their wisdom, have decided that people shouldn’t watch serial killer shows any more, because decent Americans—them— are so traumatized by the Sandy Hook massacre that they all want an end to guns, bloody video games, and any dramatic entertainment depicting violence that doesn’t come from a zombie or a vampire. Thus they savaged Kevin Bacon’s show….not because of its artistic and production values, but because they don’t want that kind of show on TV any more, and insist that the public consists of easily pleased sheep if they don’t feel the same way.
Well, that’s just too damn bad. TV critics aren’t censors or high judges of social mores. “Is it time to connect our daily diet of savage crime to, say, recent events in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.?” asks the Washington Post TV critic, who cautions audiences to think hard lest they mistake a well-done TV drama for… well-done TV drama, since he now disapproves of its genre. If a critic has decided that he or she can’t stomach violent TV shows, then that critic shouldn’t presume to review “The Following.” That’s a bias, and a conflict of interest, but more to the point, it is presumptuous. Don’t tell me what I ought to be watching or ought to enjoy. Unlike these pompous frauds, I am fully capable of separating real events from fantasy, and can be horrified at the massacre of innocent school children while still enjoying a tense drama about Kevin Bacon trying to stop a mad genius who has serial killer sleeper cells doing his bloody bidding. If a TV critic can’t, then it’s time to hang up the old critic’s notebook. One can only imagine what such a critic would have said about “Homeland,” the consensus cream of the TV series crop that just ended its season with a bloody terrorist attack in Washington, if it had been unveiled in January of 2002.
If a critic’s political and social sensibilities are so shattered by world events that he can’t appreciate or be objective about a drama, then he should have the integrity not to watch it. The people as traumatized as he won’t be watching anyway, and those who have a little more perspective and distance—like, say, me—are only going to find his unfair, sanctimonious and unprofessional review annoying and useless. If a critic can’t separate bias, emotion and politics from entertainment, he is incompetent. “The Following” is in the genre of horror, and the critics should be telling us if it is suspenseful and frightening (it is), not lecturing us that this is the “wrong time” for such a show.