Weekly Binge: The Following

We give you what you need to know to dive into the popular shows everyone's talking about.

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Welcome to the Weekly Binge, where we'll be taking a closer look at the shows that are worth your time. This week, we're spending time with Ryan Hardy as he continues to pursue serial killer Joe Carroll and his oh-so-dedicated followers.


The Following

The Following

What's the premise? Retired FBI agent Ryan Hardy returns to the field to track and re-capture infamous serial killer Joe Carroll, a cultish Charles Manson-like leader with hundreds of followers at his beck and call who has just escaped prison.

What's it like? Definitely not a show for the squeamish, The Following's graphic violence encroaches upon the line of what is considered proper for primetime network television. Don't take that to mean it should be avoided, though, because it's a tense, twisted, what-happens-next kind of show. Episodes will often lead viewers to believe they are about to witness the big capture and ultimate face-off, only for the writers to concoct some crazy, creative way out. It's a dangerous, manipulative ride, but man, is it fun.

Where can I see it? The second season previewed on January 19 on FOX but on January 27, it resumes its regular slot on Mondays at 10 p.m. To catch up, you can watch select episodes on FOX.com and Yidio, or you can always purchase views on HuluPlus, Vudu, Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes.

How long will it take? The first season contains 15 episodes, and now the preview episode of the second season has aired, which you can view online (see above). This could easily be hammered out in one weekend, if desired.

What do the critics think? Season one is Fresh, with a score of 65 percent. Of that season, Curt Wagner of RedEye says, "If you like to be scared to the point of watching through interlocked fingers, then tune in," and The Los Angeles Times' Mary McNamara says that the Edgar Allan Poe theme "[lends] the whole enterprise an artistic gravitas usually reserved for period dramas." However, season two is off to a rocky start, with a score of 45 percent (with only 11 reviews aggregated at this time). So far, the criticism is aimed at the show's predictability: Sonia Saraiya of AV Club argues, "For a show so bent on shock value, it has to this point failed to surprise much." But some critics are still onboard, like Mark Trammell of TV Equals: "All in all, a fairly solid opener, with lots of action and set-up to get you hooked all over again. It will definitely be interesting to see where all of this is going." The Following's own following remains addicted (with an audience rating of 76 percent), so it may just surprise us all again.

Why should I watch this? The Following is more horror than police procedural, which is especially nice for those of us who enjoy a dash of slash in our network TV. Watching Kevin Bacon on a weekly basis has also been a treat (since, you know, he's only six degrees from any one of us). James Purefoy as Joe Carroll has demonstrated a proven ability to engage viewers, with a hate-to-love-him sort of charm, and Valorie Curry, as number one follower Emma, possesses a naturalistic charisma, even when she's on the hunt. But it's the twists and turns, the "gotcha" moments, that make The Following addictive. We know we're going for a ride, but we still scream "Oh, ya' got me!" now and then. The producers have stated the violence would be toned down this season, but based on the first new episode, there is no evidence to support that yet. Anyway, we hope the gore remains; otherwise we would end up with just another detective cat-and-mouse show. For now, we say bring it. Bring the sensationalistic gore, bring the tricky plot devices, bring the "killer" performances. And we will follow...

What's my next step? For another creepy Kevin Bacon flick, check out the 1999 film Stir of Echoes, the disturbing drama The Woodsman, or Mystic River, the Certified Fresh film which also depicts Bacon as a detective. As for detective/serial killer films, we cannot forget the 1995 hit film, Seven, and chilling horror like Silence of the Lambs or any of the Hannibal films might keep you warm at night, as might season one of the television adaptation. Last year's Elijah Wood remake of Maniac was quite fun, too. If you're looking for solid police procedurals, we'd recommend Major Crimes and its predecessor The Closer, starring and executive produced by Bacon's wife, Kyra Sedgwick. And right now you can watch the new Certified Fresh HBO show, True Detective, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.

What do you like about The Following? How would you explain it to a newbie? Get in on the conversation here.

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