If You Want Your Life to Mean Something- Don’t Watch THE FOLLOWING [California Seething]
OK- I’ve got a question for you:
Do you watch The Following on Fox, starring Kevin Bacon?
If you answered “yes” – then I’ve got a follow up question:
What is the absolute worst show that you currently watch on television?
If you didn’t answer “Why, The Following on Fox, starring Kevin Bacon, of course.” Then I can only draw three possible conclusions about you:
- You’re wrong
- You’re crazy
- You’re Kevin Bacon
Now, if you are Kevin Bacon- then welcome! I hope you’ll enjoy California Seething – please feel free to tweet about it? Do you tweet? Do people follow you? Why???? I mean, no offense, but why would anyone possibly care what you have to say about anything? Are people’s lives that empty and meaningless that they have to be like “Oh my God, North Korea has nuclear weapons. What does the kid from Footloose have to say about that?” or “Oh no. Roger Ebert just died. Maybe Kyra Sedgewick’s squeeze can offer me some solace.” I mean, you know, no offense. I loved you in Flatliners, A Few Good Men and Murder in the First. I mean, I didn’t love your acting ‘cause, come on, that’s terrible. You’re just another second rate 80’s Tiger Beat, James Dean wannabe who does the “I’m kind of a dick ‘cause I’m misunderstood” thing, like a less interesting Kiefer Sutherland or a less dead Corey Haim.
But the fact that I knew that you were IN those movies- well, that was fantastic for me. Come on- Kevin Bacon to Debra Winger: Kevin Bacon – Julia Roberts- Richard Gere- Debra Winger. BOOM. Kevin Bacon to Humphrey Bogart: Kevin Bacon – Kevin Pollak – Walter Matthau – Audrey Hepburn- Humphrey Bogart- BRING IT BITCHEZ!
Kevin Bacon to Me – Kevin Bacon- Christian Slater- Wynona Rider- Eric Sims. That’s right- I had an uncredited one-liner in Woody Allen’s Celebrity and, fuck you very much, that counts.
Just don’t IMDB me, motherfucker, or you’ll end up with that Rogue Eric Sims who’s a background director on Archer and who’s life I REALLY REALLY WANT. Okay, well maybe not his life, cause I’m happily married and for all I know he has ball cancer but, I mean, he does get to say he works on Archer and that’s SO GODDAMN COOL. I mean, it doesn’t make up for the ball cancer – but it’s something.
So, yeah, Kevin Bacon. No offense, but you suck. You’re the Steve Kerr of Hollywood- a mediocre white guy who’s only remembered for where he played. And, much like Steve Kerr, you were a washout as the GM of the Phoenix Suns. No, wait, sorry, that makes no sense. What I meant to say is that much like Steve Kerr you wound up on TV. God, this analogy is terrible. It’s worse than Jim Buss’s decision to hire D’Antoni. The important thing is that I don’t get defensive, just like a D’Antoni team. Phoenix Suns tie in- BRING IT BITCHEZ!
Anyhow, so, right, we’ve established that Kevin Bacon is useless, mediocre, irrelevant and forgettable (no offense! Tweet me :) ) But is that the reason that The Following is the worst show that is now and has ever been on television since Farnsworth first broadcast a dot? Well…it’s certainly A reason- but not the only one. Here are the others:
Wait- before I get into that, I should probably provide some background for those of you fortunate enough to not be watching this show- so here’s a brief summary of what’s happened on The Following so far. Now, if you do watch the show, but you’re a little behind, I should let you know that there are going to be some spoilers here so for the love of god PLEASE PLEASE READ THIS AND SAVE YOURSELF FROM HAVING TO WATCH THIS ENORMOUS FESTERING PILE OF SHIT THAT CALLS ITSELF A ONE HOUR DRAMA FOR ONE MORE GOD AWFUL EPISODE. I beg of you – this may be your last chance to salvage some small modicum of self respect while freeing up much needed DVR space for more socially redeeming programming like Castle. Ah, Nathan Fillion. Sigh.
Anyhow- right- so The Following so far. Let’s see if I can do this with a minimum of contempt and commentary:
Back in the early 2000’s, Joe Carroll was a stupid, smelly, cheesy, smarmy, British Literature Professor (professor was British- not the literature) at Fakedy Fake Fake Idyllic State University in Somewhere that is Supposed to Look Like Virginia but Is Actually Wherever They Got Tax Breaks For Filming the Show. His passions included Edgar Allan Poe, high quality scotch and killing young women with knives (the young women didn’t have knives- he killed them with knives. Let’s not be ludicrous here.)
Anyhow, Stupid Smelly Cheesy Smarmy Serial Killer (S.S. C.S.S.K ) Joe Carroll was cutting up young women and Kinda Haunted FBI Agent (K.H.F.B.I.A )Kevin Bacon (or, Ryan Hardy as they insist on calling him on the show) got brought into investigate the case. So, K.H.F.B.I.A Kevin Bacon finally caught S.S.C.S.S.K. Joe Carroll but not before S.S. C.S.S.K Joe Carroll, who, to be fair isn’t actually Stupid or Smelly at all but is really a Super Evil Super Genius (cause that’s a real thing) who smells faintly of icy terror and creeping death and Old Spice (he believes in his Smelf!) stabbed K.H.F.B.I.A Kevin Bacon in the heart. As a result, K.H.F.B.I.A t Kevin Bacon needed to get a pacemaker or some dumb shit like that, so he couldn’t be an FBI Agent any more and that made him sad.
Anyhow, once Cheesy Smarmy Not Particularly Smelly Super Evil Super Genius Serial Killer (C.S.N.P.S.S.E.S.G.S.K ) Joe Carroll was in jail- or, I don’t know, maybe even before, who cares, Sad Broken Former FBI Agent (S.B.F.F.B.I.A.) Kevin Bacon started screwing his Super Hot Slightly Tortured Wife Claire (Carroll’s super hot wife, that is- it wouldn’t be quite as dramatically compelling if S.B.F.F.B.I.A. Kevin Bacon was screwing his own Super Hot Slightly Tortured wife. I mean, if he had a Super Hot Wife he probably would be a lot less Sad and Broken about the whole getting stabbed in the heart can’t be an FBI agent any more thing- he’d be like “Peace out FBI- I’m going home to screw my Super Hot Wife. Good luck with the whole Super Evil Super Genius Serial Killer Thing. Daddy’s gettin’ his Disability on!”)
And then he broke up with Claire for one of those reasons that only badly written fictional characters on TV do stuff, like “oh I love you so much, but I’m your past and you need to move on to your future and we can’t be together ‘cause I love you too much to let go but I have to for your sake even though it’s killing me inside” or some complete pile of total crap which in real life just means “Bitch- get out- you crazy!”, published a book about Joe Carroll, became an alcoholic cause it’s easier to show someone drinking than to do any ACTUAL character development and hung out in Brooklyn because Fox evidently got tax breaks for shooting in New York State.
Meanwhile, C.S.N.P.S.S.E.S.G.S.K Joe Carroll used the internet in prison (cause that’s a real thing) to put together a cult of dumbasses who want to be serial killers so that their lives can MEAN SOMETHING because the only way to truly feel alive is to kill because of something-something-something-Edgar Allen Poe-something-something-something dumb.
Alright, so how you doin’ so far? You following everything okay? Really? Well, I’ve got a little bit of bad news for you, my friend. All of this stuff that I just wrote about for the last two paragraphs- all of that happened BEFORE THE SERIES EVEN STARTED. That’s right- Baby’s got Backstory as Aristotle would say in his hip-hop theatre treatise Da Poeticz (he likes big plots and he can’t deny).
How does it feel to spend a huge chunk of your life trying to understand a ridiculous story only to discover that IT’S JUST THE BEGINNING and most of it doesn’t even matter? Cause that’s what watching The Following is all about.
Every week a new Significant Character is introduced, discussed, developed, and then killed and the story starts up all over again in some even more incomprehensible new direction. It’s a never ending narrative Death March through a wilderness of clichés without a drop of truth anywhere in sight, a Trail of Tropes if you will, and just when you think you’ve gotten to a point when the story is as dumb and absurd as it’s gonna get, they dig that trowel just a little bit deeper into the bottom of the barrel, scrape out another layer of dreck and throw it in your face like a drink at a bar.
OK- so really quickly- C.S.N.P.S.S.E.S.G.S.K Joe Carroll’s cult starts killing people and kidnaps Super Hot Slightly Tortured Wife (S.H.S.T.W.) Claire’s son so Alcoholic Sad Broken Former FBI Agent (A.S.B.F.F.B.I.A) Kevin Bacon gets brought into consult on the case. After a few “have the lambs stopped screaming yet, Clarise?” chit-chats with C.S.N.P.S.S.E.S.G.S.K Joe Carroll in prison and a staggering display of bad law enforcement decision making, Alcoholic Sad Broken Former FBI Agent Now Consultant (A.S.B.F.F.B.I.A.N.C.) Kevin Bacon utterly fails to rescue S.H.S.T.W. Claire’s son and C.S.N.P.S.S.E.S.G.S.K Joe Carroll manages to escape from prison to a big fancy house in Georgia where all of his cult members have gathered to await his return.
A.S.B.F.F.B.I.A.N.C.Kevin Bacon’s efforts to protect S.H.S.T.W. Claire and save her son are so staggeringly inept, in fact, that she ditches him so she can take her chances with her serial killer husband and his enormous loony cult of heavily armed murderers because, you know, it’s safer for everyone that way. Honestly, I’m amazed the FBI hasn’t sued Fox for defamation of character.
So, okay, there it is. The Following in a huge and grotesquely misshapen nutshell. Clearly, from a narrative standpoint it’s a poorly plotted, cliché ridden, ill conceived utterly illogical and entirely implausible turd. But that’s not really the problem- here’s what’s actually wrong with it:
It’s Insulting to Serial Killers
On those very rare occasions that The Following is actually suspenseful, which, yes I will admit, that it can be very infrequently, it is because of the conceit that anybody could be a member of Joe Carroll’s Killer Kult. That’s right, imagine living in a world where anybody could be a killer: your sheriff, your girlfriend, your nurse, your son, your wife, your nanny, your quirky gay neighbors–we are all just one douchey English professor away from going on a homicidal rampage.
Can you imagine? What kind of world would it be if you couldn’t even trust your Quirky Gay Neighbors? Every Julia Roberts movie would end in a bloodbath, and that would be fantastic!
But still, the whole point of having Quirky Gay Neighbors is to have a totally trustworthy non-threatening loveable male presence in your life who can tell you that you’re “fierce” when you’re having body image issues; who can watch you try on dresses before your big date that you insist isn’t actually a date with the emotionally aloof guy at the office that you’re totally in love with but are pretending you’re not into cause you’re not sure how he feels about you so you cover your feelings with sarcastic banter and sly looks; and who can pretend to be your fiancée when you go to a wedding because you lied and told your whole family that you were engaged to this AMAZING guy and now they’re totally going to bust you.
It somewhat defeats the purpose of having them if your totally adorbs Quirky Gay Neighbors Jacob and Paul hack you apart with an axe when you invite them over to eat Fat Free Cherry Garcia frozen yogurt and watch Sleeping with the Enemy for like the 10,000th time (and, yes, I know the non-threatening male presence in that movie isn’t supposed to be gay, but have you seen the way he sings West Side Story with that garden hose and super-tight jeans? He’s straight like Hugh Jackman is straight.)
I mean, sure, I support equality and all, but even the HRC would agree that this gay neighbor serial killer thing is simply going too far (is there a Facebook profile picture for “I support Gay Serial Killers”? Maybe a red equal sign with a chainsaw? Or a red equal sign with a cooking pot as a tribute to Jeffrey Dahmer, the Jackie Robinson of gay serial killers?)
I mean, next thing you know, The Big Sassy Black Woman who tells it like it is, by which I mean, she says “You go, girl” and “You better recognize” is gonna be shooting couples in cars with a .44 caliber, and the silly Indian guy with the sing-song accent who would be considered a hideously offensive racist caricature if it wasn’t socially acceptable to make fun of Indian people (and thank god!) is gonna carve a swastika into his forehead and get the rest of the IT department to murder a pregnant woman and her friends at her home while somehow crashing the server and totally fucking up everybody’s Outlook in the process. You see what I mean- it’s not a world anyone would want to live in. We’ve got enough problems with Outlook as it is.
Which is why it’s a good thing that the world of The Following bears absolutely no resemblance to a little place I like to call “reality”. For one thing, most Serial Killers are sociopaths which means they suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder. Now, I’m no psychologist, but I’m pretty sure that means that they are, well, NOT FUCKING SOCIAL.
They aren’t looking for some cheeseball English professor to inspire them, they aren’t living among us in some paranoid Fox News fantasy sleeper cell just waiting to be activated by their overlords, so they can start killing and they sure as shit aren’t all living in one giant house together drinking wine and exchanging killing tips like it’s the Psyco Killer Co-op at Oberlin College.
For one thing, who would do the dishes? Who would change the toilet paper? The whole thing is doomed from the start! I mean, if you think a sociopath housemate is just going to hop in his little sociopath car and run down to the little sociopath store to buy milk when he accidentally finishes what’s left in the carton on his afternoon bowl of Lucky Charms (cereal of choice for sociopaths) then you, my friend are sorely mistaken. No, he’s just gonna crumple up that carton and throw it right in the trash (not even recycling) and laugh his evil laugh while he schlups his Lucky Charms.
The hearts in his cereal may be pink but his own heart is black as darkest night. Or, even worse, he’s just gonna leave a teeny-weeny-microscopic bit of milk in the carton and then put it RIGHT BACK IN THE FRIDGE so that he doesn’t have to deal with replacing it- THAT’S the kind of dangerously sick people we’re talking about here.
There’s no way they could all live together. (TRUE CONFESSION: I do the whole “return the milk with just a tiny bit back to the fridge thing” all the time. Could there be a future for me in serial killing? Could that be the way my life could MEAN SOMETHING?)
Here’s the other thing- just because you’re a serial killer doesn’t mean that you’re TOTALLY FUCKING AMAZING AT EVERYTHING. I mean, come on Joe Carroll- internet-whiz, tactical-genius, master-manipulator, ruthless-commander and evil warlord hell-bent on world domination? Give me a break. So you hacked up a few co-eds, that doesn’t automatically make you Lex fucking Luthor. And I’m not the only one who thinks this show doesn’t get serial killers right- check out this quote about the show:
“Real serial killers create a legend…We would never kill in that manner…Us real serial killers have a hard time keeping up with the Hollywood version of ourselves.”
That’s right- an actual serial killer, code named Raven, said this on the Investigation: Discovery show, Dark Minds, and you know he’s a real serial killer cause he finished all the gummy bears on the craft service table and only left a teeny-weeny bit of French Vanilla creamer by the coffee (that bastard!) That’s right, even real serial killers find this show preposterous and insulting. Come to think of it, though, this could be an interesting new form of punishment for serial killers. Strap them down to a chair and force them to watch The Following like forcing child molesters to watch their episode of To Catch a Predator over and over again or sentencing fake psychics to 200 hours of The Mentalist.
It’s Insulting to Law Enforcement
While the serial killer on the show is completely brilliant at everything, the FBI is exactly the opposite. In any given episode, the FBI agents can be guaranteed to do the following totally idiotic things:
- Chase a suspect or a number of suspects with absolutely no back up into a dark space that they are totally unfamiliar with – typically a construction site of some sort with lots of cool plastic sheeting hanging everywhere in an effort to rescue a poor soul.
- Shoot and kill all of the suspects rather than actually trying to apprehend them and god-forbid find out anything that might potentially be useful about Joe Carroll’s cult.
- Fail to rescue anybody.
I mean, sure, I’m no expert on the subject. It’s distinctly possible that the FBI really is as useless and totally incompetent as they are portrayed on this show. But, honestly, if they are, I DON’T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT.
I can’t live in an America where the only thing standing between me and total chaos is somebody as stupid as Kevin Bacon and the other dingleberries in FBI windbreakers.
Just give me the uber-competent FBI fantasy of Criminal Minds where every serial killer gets caught just in time for the weekend, all the agents can quote Oliver Wendell Holmes and Aeschylus (when they graduate Quantico they get their badge, gun and a copy of Bartlett’s Quotations) and nobody ever interrupts anybody when they’re talking. Now that’s an FBI I can believe in! Seriously, how do they all work together so well? If my company had to catch serial killers, the whole thing would devolve into a snippy email debate over how to code travel expenses and who cleans out the mini-fridge on the G5.
While I don’t have any quotes from actual FBI agents to substantiate my position that they would find The Following insulting, I do have this made up quote:
“The Following is stupid. It makes us look like assholes. Please stop watching it” – Every FBI Agent Ever. See. Case closed. If I’ve learned anything from Criminal Minds it’s that anything said in quote form is automatically true.
It’s Insulting to Edgar Allen Poe
Now, I’m no expert- but I’m pretty sure there are three themes that Edgar Allen Poe never explored in his work:
- Killing people is cool.
- Killing people makes your life mean something
- Killing people while wearing a rubber mask of my face is totally awesome!!!
The creators of The Following, led by ‘90’s crap-auteur Kevin Williamson, are gambling that the American people are just well educated enough to know who Edgar Allen Poe is but not nearly educated enough to know anything about him or his work, so we’ll believe any dumb shit they tell us. And here’s the best part: they’re right! We’re idiots! Quoth the Raven “Are you fucking kidding me with this bullshit?”
It’s Insulting to the Viewer
And here’s the real problem with the show. (Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “NOW we get to the real problem???” Why couldn’t you have gotten to this 3000 words ago. What can I say? I’m complex. Tweet me :) )
Kevin Williamson (who, by the way, could have shot himself after Scream with no great detriment to humanity) and his merry band of “writers” are asking themselves the wrong question. Instead of asking:
“What is the story we’re trying to tell?”
“What would these characters realistically do next?”
“What would I do if I were in this type of a situation?”
“Wouldn’t it be SO FUCKIN’ COOL if we did ______?”
“Wouldn’t it be SO FUCKIN’ COOL if we had a guy in a rubber Edgar Allen Poe mask and after reading The Raven out loud on a street corner and throwing a bunch of confetti he walked over to a hot dog stand and poured gasoline over some other guy and TOTALLY LIT HIM ON FIRE?”
“Wouldn’t it be SO FUCKIN’ COOL if the FBI agents had to chase the bad guys through this totally crazy rave party with costumes and lasers and strobe-lights and unbelievably loud music and instead of, oh I don’t know, ASKING THE DJ TO STOP PLAYING AND TURNING ON THE GODDMAN LIGHTS, they keep shoving their way through the crowd in the dark to get to the bad guys and yelling to hear each other over the music. Oh and then, wouldn’t it be SO FUCKIN’ COOL if by some total coincidence there was a dark abandoned building with plastic sheeting hanging everywhere right next to the rave party so they had to chase the bad guys into it but you could still like, TOTALLY SEE THE STROBE LIGHTS AND LASERS through the plastic sheeting!!!”
“Wouldn’t it be SO FUCKIN’ COOL if like, Joe Carroll had ALL THESE CRAZY FOLLOWERS and they totally lived in a big house together like a big happy family even though they’re actually A FUCKING BUNCH OF SOCIOPATHS which means nobody would ever go out to buy milk?”
And because they keep asking themselves this question, instead of making the logical choice or the believable choice or the plausible choice they inevitably make the COOL choice and, as a result, we have a television series like a Pandora charm bracelet- a bunch of arbitrary gaudy artifacts strung together in no discernible order and marketed to idiots who have no taste.
And here’s the worst part: I’m one of those idiots. Try as a I might, I can’t stop watching. Much like our earliest ancestors who looked into the dizzying chaos of the nighttime sky and invented the constellations to give themselves some logical pattern to follow, so do I tune in to this terrible show week after week and peer through the diarrhea splatter of narrative nonsense squirted out by Kevin Williamson desperately seeking some logical pattern that will tie the whole thing together coherently.
And the worst part is IT DOESN’T WANT TO END. Seriously, they made like 4,000 episodes this season. They’re only just NOW getting to the “only five new episodes remain” phase of the season, and, despite all of my hopes and dreams, they renewed the fucking thing for next year.
So, until the estate of Edgar Allen Poe issues a Cease and Desist order or I throw a brick through my TV, it looks like Kevin Bacon and I are stuck together along with his costar Annie Parisse. Who…wait a second….was in National Treasure with Nicholas Cage – which means that I can now get from Kevin Bacon to Nicholas Cage in ONE FUCKING MOVE! BOOM! TAKE THAT, BITCHEZ!
Finally I can justify all the time and effort that I’ve put into watching this show. What can I say? I just wanted The Following to mean something.
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