Fox Thriller ‘The Following’ Fights Off Criticisms About Violence

by | January 8, 2013 at 5:02 PM | Midseason 2013, The Following

'The Following's James Purefoy (L) and Kevin Bacon (R) Smooch on Stage at the TCAs (Photo: FOX)

There’s a lot of killer TV on these days, quite literally.

From “Dexter” to “American Horror Story” to “Criminal Minds,” TV is darker than ever, and soon, there will be another serial killer on the loose in prime-time.

Fox is set to debut its dark new thriller “The Following,” starring Kevin Bacon as an emotionally damaged FBI guy tracking a serial killer (James Purefoy) with a cult following, but it comes at an unsettling time. The nation is still rattled by the real-life madness of multiple, mindless shooting sprees, but that won’t affect Fox’s plans for the series.

The network will roll out the highly anticipated drama as scheduled on Jan. 21 and has no plans to edit any of the grisly content, Fox confirmed Tuesday at its presentation to reporters at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour.

Series creator Kevin Williamson (“The Vampire Diaries”) and his cast fielded a lot of questions from TV critics about the show’s level of violence. Many wondered if the network had considered toning it down in the wake of the tragedies at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn. and the movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

“I think we all worry about it, who wasn’t affected by Sandy Hook? I’m still disturbed when I think of Aurora,” Williamson told reporters.

But it’s just a TV show, Williamson says, and he doesn’t believe that current events should govern his storylines.

“It’s meant to be a thriller, with a provocative story at its root,” Williamson explained. “It’s meant to be a work of fiction.”

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He admits the show can be “scary” and it’s not for everyone.

“There are moments where it’s squeamish and it’s not for the faint of heart. You have to kind of look away,” Williamson said. “But it’s not the sum of the show. There’s also drama and emotion and a lot of other things running through it.”

Fox Entertainment Chief Kevin Reilly also addressed the sensitive subject during his executive session with reporters, saying, “I don’t like to trivialize an issue but we take everything we do and put on the air with the utmost responsibility.”

“I think the show is intense because of the psychological nature of it,” he continued, adding that while the show is graphic, nothing that airs went beyond the bounds of FCC standards.

Reilly also admitted he feels pressure to keep up with the fare that’s currently ruling cable, such as this year’s top drama, “The Walking Dead.”

“We must match the intensity, otherwise we’re going to be a pale comparison,” Reilly said. “When you’re doing a thriller, you must compete on that level.”

Speaking of comparisons, British actor James Purefoy (“Rome”), who plays serial killer Joe Carroll, explains how much more clever his madman is than one of film’s most notorious serial killers, Hannibal Lecter of “Silence of the Lambs” [who coincidentally is coming to TV later this year in NBC's "Hannibal"].

“I’ve been thinking a lot about this and about ‘Silence of the Lambs,’ and that actually as we shoot the show more and more, I’m convinced of how little Hannibal Lecter’s vision was, how unimpressive it is,” Purefoy said, joking, “Like, really, he could only see up to the next meal.”

Purefoy and his costar Kevin Bacon then delightfully lightened up the press conference — by planting a giant kiss on each other [which explains the photo above]. The surprising moment came after a reporter noted that the show’s hero and villain had such great chemistry together in their scenes, she kept expecting them to kiss. Which the actors then did on stage, as the crowd erupted in wild applause.

“The Following” premieres Monday, Jan. 21 at 9/8c on Fox.