TV Critics and “The Following”: Let’s Blame Kevin Bacon For Gun Violence!


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.

11 thoughts on “TV Critics and “The Following”: Let’s Blame Kevin Bacon For Gun Violence!

  1. First off, I didn’t watch “The Following”, but I do think James Purefoy did a great job portraying Mark Antony on one of favorite series, HBO’s Rome. That aside, one would have to wonder what the outcry would be if a critically acclaimed, popular, and all around awesome show such “The Walking Dead” wasn’t on hiatus. As it has been mentioned in your blog in the past, guns play an interesting and very prevalent role in the show… including showing young children using guns. Since “The Following” is a new show, is it simply an easy target that critics have decided to attack to make a point? Would there be the same false hand wringing and gnashing of teeth for “The Walking Dead” which has already been awarded and approved of? I guess we’ll have to see what the media will say once the show comes back on in a couple of weeks…and the season’s writers can’t tone down the violence since they’ve already filmed the episodes.

    • I’m sure the market has a great deal of sway on the critic’s opinions (thus making them cowards or hypocrites). Better not criticize a popular show.

      Can we at least blame Kevin Bacon for “Hollow Man”?

    • How do you tone down the violence of a zombie show? I think maybe WD will get a pass, since school safety is hardly an issue when teachers are being eaten, and the more rational gun-o-phobes will have to concede that when the neighbors are massing to eat your brains, an assault weapon doesn’t seem so excessive any more.

      But I have underestimated the excesses of anti-gun hysterics before. The fact that a 13-year-old is toting a gun pretty much 24-7 probably drives them nuts.

  2. I agree with you absolutely. Yes, there are an amazing number of crime dramas on TV, but there are seemingly endless mindless, stupid comedies on TV as well. The interesting thing about “The Following,” which the Post reviewer seems to think irrelevant, is that, in addition to the violence, it may actually teach people something. I would guess that 90% of viewers know nothing about Edgar Allen Poe, a great American novelist and short story writer, and may even have their interest in him piqued by Kevin Bacon and the fact that the show’s villain is a Poe fanatic. Is this not this better than, say, “Criminal Minds,” which consistently dreams up more and uglier murder scenarios without any backdrop except the work of the FBI? It was refreshing to see — I know — another bloody crime drama based on something a bit deeper and more interesting than murder and mayhem just for the hell of it.

  3. In my opinion, writers – whether they be journalists or critics – seem to lack patience these days. In the age of new media and instant publishing, they seem to write for the moment. To that end, where a writer doing a good job, would have written a well reasoned piece, on any subject of his or her choosing, without drawing a conclusion but leaving it to the reader to decide, the current slate of writers (and maybe their editors) are removing the reasoning and replacing it with their narrative, opinions, and conclusions.

    For example, “Here’s my opinion, here’s what you should think, and here’s a strawman that may solidify your feelings on the subject.” is poor writing. It’s hard to find, but a good writer should be able to tell a story giving the necessary facts and the bias comes from what is missing. The conclusion should never be contained in a piece. An effective piece will still only leave room for one conclusion, but that’s a subtlety that warrants distinction.

    Writers, either in their fear of being misinterpreted or in their desire to make their ideas and biases overtly known, regularly abuse their own profession. It continually lowers the bar.

    One has to wonder about other models of journalism in the world to see if there is something we could be doing better. I’ve got a few ideas myself, but they are ideas of grandeur that could never come to existence without power and money to influence its creation.

    P.S. I usually just write these things and delete them – it’s a form of venting for me I suppose. But I kind of like this one…so here I post it.

  4. Well, I watched the show, and even for someone who doesn’t like that much blood it was gripping, especially the ending. That first story could have almost stood alone as a thriller/horror movie.

    Absent from this almost completely is the use of any gun on the villain’s part. He uses psychology, Poe interest and writing skills, knives, especially knives. Blaming a knife serial killer for Sandy Hook is absurd for a TV show review! Would the critic blame Sandy Hook on the cartoon He-man too? If he’s that traumatized he should skip reviewing anything but comedies and unreality shows until he can handle horror again.

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