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Kevin Bacon’s new Fox series wallows in grim tedium

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The Details

The Following
Two stars
Mondays, 9 p.m., Fox.

The Following has to be one of the goriest series ever to air on network TV (the first episode features, no joke, mutilated puppies), so if unrelenting grimness is your thing, this is the show for you. Creator Kevin Williamson is still best known for combining horror with sardonic humor in the Scream series, but there’s nothing even resembling humor in The Following, which casts Kevin Bacon as a troubled former FBI agent pitted against a diabolical serial killer/cult leader.

Bacon’s Ryan Hardy is your standard cop-show antihero, complete with drinking problem, unstable relationships, disrespect for authority and, of course, extreme competence that excuses all his vices. Years ago, Hardy helped put away charismatic serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), and now that Carroll is active again (despite still being locked up), the FBI calls Hardy out of exile to help track down the acolytes who are now doing Carroll’s bidding.

The premise of The Following strains believability at every turn (Carroll has a seemingly unending series of followers and more elaborately orchestrated murder plans than Jigsaw), and while the show is good at creating cliffhangers, by the third or fourth episode it becomes obvious that it’s not good at anything else. Bacon channels Jack Bauer-style single-minded intensity, and Purefoy tries to do a Hannibal Lecter riff, but neither of them really succeeds. Valorie Curry, playing one of Carroll’s adherents, gives the show’s best and creepiest performance, but like everything else on the show, it’s only used in service of empty shock value.

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