No network midseason show has generated more buzz than "The Following," which premieres Monday night on Fox.
There are three reasons for that:
First, Kevin Bacon is the star, and he's better than most network television actors. Here he plays an angry, burned-out ex-F.B.I. agent with a drinking problem who is called out of retirement when a serial killer escapes from prison.
Second, because the serial killer worships Edgar Allan Poe, the series is drenched in all things Poe. Baltimore, being filled with Poe Lovers, is a prime target for the Fox publicity campaign. The pilot is being screened Saturday night in Baltimore in a soldout event in connection with the 204th birthday of the author.
Third, the series is steeped in violence -- extreme violence by the standards of network TV. That's a warning to viewers. Even I found the first few episodes grisly.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, "The Following" has become the poster show for those who believe violence in our popular culture is part of the murder problem in the U.S.
I believe it is a mistake to scrub our culture clean of violence in TV drama. Do that, and you lose such landmark series as "The Sopranos" and "The Wire" -- and we are a less enlightened society for it. Violence is as much a part of art as it is life.
But that's an important debate, and so, the show matters by nature of its role in that conversation.
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Check out the above video/podcast in which I discuss the show and its relationship to that debate.