The Following, which was created by Scream writer, Kevin Williamson, capitalized on many aspects of horror TV that are more popular in recent years.
The Following, a grisly crime horror television series that ran on FOX from 2013 to 2015 was ahead of its time in many ways, and would have likely done better with genre audiences in 2020. Unfortunately, at the time, it had a strong start that fizzled in later seasons, but certainly paved the way for others to take note and improve on its few shortcomings.
From Scream writer Kevin Williamson, the creator of The Following, the show followed FBI Agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) as he worked to capture serial killer and former college professor Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) who has used his charisma and teaching methods, much of which related to literature such as the works of Edgar Allen Poe, to find people to become his dedicated followers. Carroll incites violence from his cult, urging them to kill for him, and is very much a figurehead like Charles Manson and other notorious cult leaders from history, but with the cunning and charm of other notable serial killers such as Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs. Equal parts procedural crime drama and nail-biting thriller, The Following had sharp scares and biting dialogue along with well-rounded, three-dimensional characters and alarmingly violent kill sequences that were, at times, too much for the network.
With horror television being more popular in recent years, ushered in by prominent anthology series American Horror Story in 2011 and continued by other shows like The Walking Dead on AMC, Bates Motel on A&E, and eventually Hannibal on NBC, The Following suffered from being ahead of its time by just a few years, though even popular shows like Hannibal eventually got the axe from its network. In more recent years, genre-adjacent television shows like The Prodigal Son have taken over the darker elements of what a crime drama can be, but The Following is a worthwhile watch for horror fans, and could have been much bigger had it debuted just a little later.
The Following Would Be A Better Addition To 2020 Horror TV
While horror is a very broad genre, The Following does deviate from shows that are more distinctly horror like American Horror Story and The Walking Dead. Williamson was inspired by one of his favorite shows, 24, for the premise and has even made comparisons between Ryan Hardy and Jack Bauer. At first, Williamson was intrigued by bringing a show to network television that was darker, more explosively violent, and controversial, but was reportedly under a lot of pressure from FOX executives to make the overall show more appealing to a broader audience, rather than catering to horror fans. This is more a product of the times than Williamson’s capabilities; he has been a prominent name in horror for decades. He and Wes Craven’s teamwork on Scream in 1996 brought a completely updated take to the slasher movie, which had gotten stale after over-saturating the 1980s.
While The Following did receive generally favorable reviews in its early seasons, the show plummeted during the second and third seasons, sloping downward with each continuation. However, at its core, the show truly reflects what horror fans love about shows like Hannibal through its inclusion of arguably one of television’s greatest villains (Carroll). Carroll can stand alongside characters like Dexter Morgan from Dexter, Hannibal Lecter from Hannibal and even Joe Goldberg from YOU. In the years since The Following has been off the air, violence on television has become slightly more lax and audiences are warming to the idea of darker subject matter more than they did in the early 2010s; perhaps Williamson’s desires to include more controversial content would have aided The Following had it aired even just three or four years later than it did.