Every so often, America agrees to have a debate about violence in popular culture. There are few if any concrete results that emerge from these debates, but it’s certainly a discussion worth having.
There’s no doubt that television is generally more violent and resorts to more graphic imagery than it did a decade or two ago. Whatever you think of the results of this trend, there are quite a few logical behind it.
Every day, an ever-expanding array of networks flood the market with all kinds of programming, and new-media companies like Netflix and Hulu are stepping into the fray as well. So how do does a network stand out in a cluttered media landscape? One way to get eyeballs is to gouge them out, apparently. Monday’s moderately successful debut of Fox’s “The Following” not only showed or mentioned a couple dozen murders but also featured a disturbing scene with a mutilated dog. Not wanting to be left behind, NBC debuts “Hannibal” later this season; the drama tells the backstory of the serial killer from “The Silence of the Lambs.” Gone are the days when a posse of good-looking lawyers or cops were enough to garner a reasonable audience — at least that’s what network executives concerned about audience erosion appear to be thinking. (Another example: “Do No Harm,” an upcoming doctor drama on NBC, is about a physician who moonlights as — wait for it — a murderer). To compete with all the noise in the marketplace, TV has gotten bigger, brasher and louder in a lot of ways (think of the dumb stereotypes on “2 Broke Girls” or the four-quadrant blandness of “Terra Nova” as other exemplars of this trend). TV shows have to be brassy and have a hook these days, and even if the hook isn’t vampires, there’s a good chance there will be blood.
Plus, they’re really excited for you to finally see their show.
"I think I’m most excited for fans to be surprised," Kevin Bacon said. "That’s the kind of thing that makes this show interesting, in the same way that I — when I picked up the script and read it, I said ‘Wow, I didn’t see that coming.’ I didn’t know anything about it. They just sent it to me and I just picked it up, all I knew was Kevin Williamson was involved with it. It’s a page turner and I feel like it’s a great thrill ride."
Kevin Bacon is on TV! The actor had been looking for a TV project, so how did he decide on “The Following”?
I liked the heroic aspect of the character in combination with the vulnerability, the damage, the complexity that he has. He’s a guy that’s hurting, so he’s not your cookie-cutter hero-hero. I liked the fast paced, page-turning part of the show, and it had a lot of surprises for me. And I thought, well, if you could make a show that becomes the type of show where, on Tuesday, people are standing around the watercooler going, “Shit, do you believe what happened?” that would be something that would be cool to be a part of. And I was looking for something with high stakes, life and death.
We’ve seen Fox’s new fall and midseason pilots, and while they’re not for review (things often change drastically before the shows are set to premiere), we do want to share our first reactions with you.