TV’s latest serial killers
There have been more shows on TV that are more violent than Fox’s new serial-killer drama “The Following,” Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly told TV critics Tuesday. “Clearly, he said, “there is an appetite — people like these things,”
The network has no plans to tinker with the eagerly anticipated stomach-churner in the wake of last month’s killing of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., and other recent acts of real-life violence, Reilly told TV critics attending the press tour.
In the series from Kevin Williamson, Kevin Bacon stars as a former FBI agent brought back to track down a serial killer (James Purefoy) who has created a cult of killers around him.
In the first episode, a woman commits suicide by stabbing herself in the eye and piercing her skull with an ice pick; in another, a man is set on fire at a coffee stand.
Reilly noted last season’s No. 1-scripted TV series was the ghoulish AMC zombie drama, “The Walking Dead.”
“When you put on a thriller, you have to compete at that level. . . . We must match the intensity; otherwise, we’ll pale in comparison,” Reilly told critics, who’d asked him about the role of TV violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
“Before there was cable, Fox was cable,” Reilly waxed nostalgically, adding that it’s his goal, with such shows as “The Following,” to “get some of the Fox back in Fox.”
The new series, debuting Jan. 21, “adheres to broadcast standards,” Reilly said.
“If you put this [series] through the filter of broadcast standards, there’s nothing on that show we even had to fight over,” Reilly said. “I didn’t call [Fox’s Standards and Practices Department] and say, ‘Buckle up — this one’s pushing the boundaries.’ ”
Williamson said his new show is “not for the faint of heart.”
“It’s definitely — there’s some moments it’s squeamish,” he said. “You have to kind of look away. But it’s not the sum of the show.”
“There’s also drama and emotion and a lot of other things running through it. I take it episode by episode. . . . Some episodes, I find: Oh, wow, a lot of people died this week. Okay. So then when I sit down to write, no one dies the next week.”
Williamson said he and his writers were “traumatized” by the Sandy Hook shootings.
“So when I take pen to paper, there is a reaction to it and it sort of finds its way into what I do,” he said.
Asked how it will find its way into his work on the show, he answered: “I don’t know. We’ll find out. It just happened.”
It trivializes the issue to link the deaths at Sandy Hook to television — and to broadcast television, in particular — Reilly scolded, adding that “you can’t draw a direct linkage.”
“We have an FCC license and we take that seriously,” said Reilly, adding that Fox is open to an industrywide discussion about violent content.
But he said: “Everyone is looking for a scapegoat or wanting to put a finger on one thing that’s the problem. . . . We are just in an age of complex issues. It’s no one simple thing.”
Meanwhile, CBS, which has yet to make its presentations at the tour, should be steeling itself for questions.
Two days before Reilly spoke to the critics, NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt defended his new serial-killer drama, “Hannibal,” saying he thought that his other serial-killer drama, “Dexter” (Greenblatt used to head programming at Showtime) was not as violent as CBS’s “Criminal Minds.”
To read more from Winter TV Press Tour 2013, go to washingtonpost.com/tvblog.