The Following: Season 2

The FollowingThe Following season 2 was basically just like season 1, just with a few additional psychopaths. But then the first season did work in an insane type of way. I mean the whole thing is preposterous in the extreme, but there’s never a dull moment at least. It’s a good thing, because if there were any dull moments they’d be filled with the sound of plots collapsing under the catastrophic unlikeliness of everything. Characters make insane decisions, organisations are hugely incompetent even the weather made no sense with snow appearing and disappearing in minutes.

Fortunately though everything moves along at such a pace you don’t really pause to question it (helped in my case by usually watching this while cooking or baking). The action sequences are lively and frequent enough and the quieter moments are held together with the performances by James Purefoy and Kevin Bacon who are laying the ham on spectacularly thick but seemingly having a glorious time doing it.

The supporting characters tend to get a bit bogged down and the actors are maybe taking things a bit too seriously. I wish the more easy-going and youthful Mike had stayed around a little longer before turning into the bitter and scary version we’ve got here. Also following the season 1 death of the previous competent yet ineffectual female law enforcement officer, she’s been replaced with another almost identical one who just spends her time saying “Ryan you shouldn’t do that” and watching him run off to do exactly what he shouldn’t. Emma meanwhile, despite being a pretty horrific person, actually seems to be the only one in the whole setup with any brains at all. The rest of the supporting characters come and go with speed, which while theoretically this keeps the audience on their toes, it sometimes backfires in that it never seems worth engaging with the characters if they’re likely to die within a few episodes.

The plot is sort of the same as the previous season, but with an intriguing twist, rather than Joe being at the top of the totem pole, this time he has to start from the bottom and beg, borrow and bludgeon his way there. Some of the religious stuff did get a little much towards the end, but the idea of him infiltrating someone else’s cult was a nice spin on things.

The shorter seasons (15 episodes) work well for the series, frankly taking it down to 12 may not be a bad idea, I lost interest around episode 9 and only came back to it after a couple of months when I’d run out of other things to watch. I’m not certain whether I’ll bother watching next year, it sort of overlaps a bit too much with The Blacklist, and I’d much rather watch James Spader than Purefoy and Bacon, but if I’m short of mindless distraction, I’ll probably give it a try.


The Upfronts – Fox

Fox network logoUpfront week has rolled around surprisingly quickly this year. Over the span of just four days the five major US network channels will introduce their schedules for the 2013-14 season, delivering last rights to those that have failed to bring in the ratings, offering another year to the select few and introducing those that are lucky enough to win a coveted new slot.

First up, Fox. Much of their schedule is dominated by reality shows (American Idol and X-Factor mostly) which I don’t even mention, so they have less stuff than CBS, NBC and ABC.

What’s out
fringeJust four comedy/drama cancellations from Fox this year, which is joint lowest with CW. Fringe held out longer than anyone expected and came to a very well managed end, so I can’t say I’m that sad to see it go, particularly as the last season was not its strongest. Keifer Sutherland’s Touch made it to a second season, but never seemed to get much attention either from the ratings or critics. The Mob Doctor and Ben and Kate were freshman series that never really got off the ground, and while the latter received some critical praise, it doesn’t look like anyone will really miss either of them.

What’s returning
bonesMost of Fox’s renewals are comedies (New Girl, The Mindy Project, Raising Hope and Glee) or animations (The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy and American Dad). The only drama renewals are Bones and new show The Following (all be it mid-season). It would seem in a slightly desperate attempt to add some established drama to its schedules they’ve taken the rather bizarre route in renewing 24 for some sort of special run. I never liked the original, so am not particularly fussed, but it certainly drew the attention of the media.

What’s new
Almost Human – Set in 2048, police officers are partnered with ‘synthetics’. Detective Kennex (Karl Urban, Star Trek) is about as unstable a human as you get and Dorian (Michael Ealy, Sleeper Cell) is about as unstable an android as you get. The sci-fi elements look interesting and impressive and the unlikely buddy cop motif is generally a pretty reliable way to drive story. The cast is full of familiar names (Lili Taylor of Six Feet Under, Mackenzie Crook of Pirates of the Caribbean, Minka Kelly of Friday Night Lights and Michael Irby of The Unit and has JJ. Abrams (Star Trek, Fringe, Lost) as creator and Exec Producer, so expectations are high, but the trailer left me intrigued.

Sleepy Hollow – Ichabod Crane comes back from a couple of hundred years ago, comes back from the dead to continue his search for the headless horseman. Part supernatural DaVinci Code thriller and part buddy cop action comedy this could be both fun and interesting, although it’s best to ignore the ridiculous voice over on the trailer.

Dads – I’m not sure I’ve ever really found anything by Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, Ted) funny, and this trailer is no different. Seth Green (Oz from Buffy, And other stuff) and Giovanni Ribisi (Phoebe’s brother from Friends, and other stuff) are best friends both of who’s fathers decide to come live with them. Chaos ensues. It wasn’t intolerable, I just didn’t find it funny enough.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – This however was intolerable. A comedy about a dysfunctional New York detective squad. Andre Braugher used to be in Homicide: Life on the Street and now he’s in this?!

Enlisted – Geoff Stults (The Finder), returns home from war and is put in charge of turning a bunch of incompetent soldiers, including his two brothers, into something less embarrassing. I hated this from the second the music started.

Us & Them – Gavin and Stacey (yes, like the UK series) seem a nice enough couple who come from New York and Pennsylvania respectively, it’s just that they’re surrounded by well meaning but slightly horrific friends and family. Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls!) and Jason Ritter (Parenthood) are both charismatic and sort of lovely in the trailer, but the others may be unbearable. I didn’t hate it though.

Surviving Jack – based on Justin Halpern’s book I Suck at Girls, a comedy set in 90s California about a no-nonsense semi-absent father (Christopher Meloni, Law and Order: SVU) who’s suddenly forced to be the full time parent to a pair of teenagers. I chuckled a couple of times at the trailer, but also rolled my eyes a couple of times, so it averages out to a ‘meh’. Starts midseason.

Rake – a fairly standard set up, the central character is a complete disaster in his personal life but a pretty good lawyer. It’s the kind of show that lives and dies with its star, and in Greg Kinnear they have someone who is instantly likeable and left me feeling optimistic for the show. Starts midseason.

Gang Related – Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez, The Wire) is on the LA Gang Task Force but also has ties to a local gang and is torn back and forth between the two. The trailer looks very impressive, but I can’t help feeling that I’ve seen this film several times before and at best have come away impressed, but not that interested.

Wayward Pines – Wayward Pines is an idyllically perfect American town, but you can never leave. Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) is a Secret Service Agent sent to the town to investigate the disappearance of two of his colleagues. But he soon finds himself trapped as well. The idea sounds intriguing, but with the Press Release laying the similarity to Twin Peaks on a little too much, and the dubious talents of M. Night Shyamalan attached, there’s the potential for this to go very wrong. Starts midseason, no trailer yet.

Murder Police – animated comedy about a group of inept, corrupt and lazy police officers. Sounds like the animated equivalent of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and I’m even less enthusiastic about this than I am about that. Midseason

Trailers collated by The TV Addict and TV Line and schedule summaries from The Futon Critic.

The Upfronts 2012 – Fox

Thanks to the schedulers who doubled up Fox and NBC on day one of the Upfronts, I’m already a day behind!

What’s out
The biggest news from Fox this year was that House would be coming to a close after 8 seasons. It’s a shame that out of 176 episodes there were 150 utterly mediocre ones that broke up the 20 odd breathtaking ones. I’ve come very close to giving up on this series several times so I can’t say I was that disappointed to see it brought to a managed close.

I was more disappointed by the cancellation of Terra Nova which I actually really enjoyed, but its audiences were nowhere near big enough for its giant costs, so it was slightly doomed from the start. The Finder was an utterly unremarkable spin-off of Bones and I never bothered with it beyond the backdoor pilot in the previous season of Bones. I meant to watch Alcatraz, but I couldn’t fit it into my schedule and now it’s been cancelled I’m not sure I’ll bother. Breaking In was a Christian Slater vehicle which completely passed me by somehow and seems to have been cancelled before its second season even aired which was a little harsh. Also cancelled without me, or anyone else, noticing their existence were the animation Allen Gregory and the ‘comedy’ I Hate My Teenage Daughter.

What’s back
Possibly the biggest surprise of all the pickups was that Fox, with its reputation for hating genre stuff, renewed Fringe. All credit to the network they’ve given this superb show a home and a chance to finish off its storylines (albeit in a half season) despite terrible ratings. I’m still not forgiving them for Firefly though.

No-shit-sherlock pickups went to Glee (even if it has been rubbish this year) and Bones (which was surprisingly good). Touch, the Kiefer Sutherland thingy was a bit more surprising (pilot was resoundingly meh and I didn’t bother with it), but he’s been good for the network in the past. The New Girl apparently found enough viewers who weren’t driven insane by Zooey Deschanel and got a renewal alongside Raising Hope and the collection of animations including the unkillable Simpsons (this will be its 24th season and it just passed episode 500).

What’s new
The Mob Doctor – I’ll be honest, I didn’t really follow the trailer. I’m never a big fan of gangster stuff, all that posturing and mumbling just doesn’t do it for me. My housemate also requests I point out the unrealistic screwdriver incident.

Ben and Kate – bad news, the trailer is nearly 5 minutes long. I’m assuming that’s most of the actual episode and it really isn’t funny, unless the second half is hilarious because I gave up at the 2 minute mark. I have no idea who bothers paying for this stuff.

The Mindy Project – Mindy Kaling (The Office) created and stars in some sort of Bridget Jones style thing. At one point the voiceover says “there’s no one like Mindy”. We can but hope.

The Following – Kevin Bacon stars as an FBI agent chasing serial killers who have been trained by a serial killer. This looks pretty good actually, a nice concept, an excellent star and a dark and grim tone that (possibly disturbingly) I quite like.

The Goodwin Games – From the people behind How I Met Your Mother, a comedy about estranged siblings forced to reunite to inherit a fortune. Stars Becki Newton (Ugly Betty) and Scott Foley (The Unit). I actually chuckled at this one. It got sappy which was a downer and a bit stupid which was frustrating, but I didn’t immediately despise it which is about as good as it gets for comedies.

The Futon Critic
NBC’s website