Kevin Bacon's known for many things, most notably brilliant roles in a host of films dating back decades. But he's also done his fair share of television, going all the way back to his days in the cast of The Guiding Light as a teen some 32 years ago. Recently he's directed his wife Kyra Sedgwick in the Emmy-winning The Closer and was a 2009 Golden Globe winner for HBO's TV movie Taking Change.
But starting 8 p.m. tonight, Bacon's the star of the most anticipated show debuting this winter on network or cable. Fox's The Following (broadcast locally on WZTV-17) is being hailed in some quarters as the boldest program any broadcast outlet's done this century. But it's also drawing plenty of scrutiny and concern due to its content.
In the wake of the horrific Newtown school shooting and widespread debate on the role (if any) film, TV and video games play in violent acts, The Following will be as gory as it gets on any outlet that's not a pay cable/satellite channel. There are reports of multiple eye gougings shown in the pilot, and footage of a man being set on fire in the second episode.
Bacon plays former ace FBI agent Ryan Hardy, now retired, who quit due to the impact of pursuing and catching vicious psychopaths. But when clever and particularly brutal serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) escapes, after Hardy put him behind bars a decade ago, the lawman is called back to duty.
Not only is Carroll, a former college literature professor, a genius as a criminal planner, he's quite charismatic. He's this century's Charles Manson, only he's obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe rather than the Beatles and has recruited a group of followers. Hardy and cohorts Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) and Deborah Parker (Annie Parisse) must stop Carroll and company before there's a repeat of the body count that reached 14 before Hardy caught him the first time.
The show's creator Kevin Williamson (Vampire Diaries) has gotten enormous concessons from Fox in regards to direction and presentation. Bacon is on board for only 15 episodes rather than the customary 22. While audiences will recognize the Behavoral Analysis Unit (BAU) from CBS' enormously popular Criminal Minds, that's the sole connection they'll see between The Following and anything else on the air. The scripts and look are much closer to a feature film than episodic TV, and both Bacon and Williamson insist this will not be a standard procedural.
With the bloom well off the American Idol rose and The X Factor never delivering as promised, Fox has lagged badly this fall. They're hoping The Following can restore some of their luster.
Practice is over
Private Practice never enjoyed the popularity of the show that spawned it, Grey's Anatomy, even though its main star Kate Walsh was in the former's first season (and her character Dr. Addison Forbes was originally a major part of that show's fabric). But it had a solid run and concludes its six-year tenure on ABC (WKRN-2) Tuesday at 9 p.m.
Highlights for its fans include the marriage of Forbes to Jake (Benjamin Bratt) and the return of some favorite characters, most notably Dr. Naomi Bennett (Audra McDonald). But creator Shonda Rhimes says it's a "bittersweet" finale, meaning not all the characters will get a happily-ever-after.