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Arts and Entertainment

Kevin Bacon's 'The Following' is Surprisingly Addictive TV

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Ok, we’re weary about new TV shows in January because, frankly, the last thing we need is another show to DVR. There’s just not enough time in the day to watch all the series we’d like, so we skeptically tuned into the series premiere of The Following last night.

If you’ve missed FOX’s hard-core promotional campaign (which is seriously hard to escape), the show is Kevin Bacon’s first foray into leading a primetime series, playing a former FBI agent Ryan Hardy, called out of a retirement steeped in vodka to track down escaped serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy).

(There’s been a lot of hype/controversy about the show’s violence in light of the tragedy in Sandy Hook, but after watching last night’s show, we think the criticism is a little unfair since we saw nothing that hasn’t been shown before on network TV. Have you seen recent episodes of Criminal Minds?)

During a recent conference call, Bacon said that he’d been looking into TV series for awhile, but it took some time to find the right one, especially on a network. “I wanted to do something that was about life and death,” he said. “When I was trying to choose a series, I wanted to be the hero. I wanted the character to be complex and flawed...because that’s the kind of heroes that I like to play and that’s the kind that I like to see.”

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Hardy works closely consulting for FBI team that includes Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore from X-Men) assigned to find Carroll. The investigation leads back to Carroll's only surviving victim as well as young son and ex-wife (Natalie Zea). While the show’s primary premise of cop vs. serial killer is nothing new, what made the first episode so promising was the great backstory. Hardy was stabbed by Carroll and now has a pacemaker because of it, plus he slept with the serial killer’s wife—and oh yeah, there's the creepy growing legion of Carroll’s groupies. These cult-like followers will do almost anything for their fearless leader, and the audience never knows exactly who to trust. We hope this show gets mind-trippingly good.

Bacon also noted that Hardy admires Carroll about as much as he hates him. "My character is not an extremely well-read and well-educated man. He's not a people person. He's not a charmer, he's not a dynamic speaker and he's maybe not even somebody that you necessarily want to go and have a beer with," he said. "Joe Carroll is all those things...I think Ryan looks up to him in a strange kind of way."

Our verdict after last night's debut? Looks like we’ll have to find more space in the DVR for The Following. It was a riveting and thrilling hour of television, anchored by the two leads. Bacon is a messed up, complex hero, and Purefoy is pure evil in a charming, Ted Bundy sort of way. And while the show is a little heavy-handed on the Poe and literature references (Carroll was an English professor), we're willing to overlook it if The Following can live up to the pilot's lead.