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Mark H. Harris

The Following: Savior of Network TV?

By January 16, 2013

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The Following
Photo: Michael Lavine/Fox

Although network TV ratings still exceed cable, they have lost ground over the years, and networks generally haven't generated the buzz -- media coverage, awards, targeted demographic ratings -- of cable shows of late. But with its "24 meets Silence of the Lambs" setup, The Following has a chance to be that breakout water cooler hit -- at least of the midseason TV schedule. 

It's a thrilling cat-and-mouse game between troubled FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) and even more troubled serial killer Joe Carroll (Joe Purefoy), who seeks revenge for his capture (amongst other things). The title refers to the cult of followers that Carroll has accumulated during his time in jail who are willing to kill for him at the drop of a dime.

Its appeal doesn't rely solely on the chess game between Hardy and Carroll, however; creator Kevin Williamson (Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer) flushes out the secondary characters with a refreshing complexity, particularly cult members who could easily be drawn as flat and single-mindedly evil. Some are apprehensive to obey Carroll's orders, others go above and beyond, proving themselves to be looser canons than even other killers can deal with.

I've watched the first four episodes, and although it took until the end of the first to fully draw me in, I'm hooked. It's got the sort of addictive, buzz-worthy potential to help even the playing field with cable. My main fear right now (other than Fox canceling the show) is that the concept might not be sustainable over multiple seasons, but don't let that stop you from tuning in to The Following, starting Monday, January 21, at 9:00 PM ET/PT on Fox. But before then, check out the main cast and characters (SPOILER WARNING for episode 1), some photos and the trailer.

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