Last week I watched twenty-seven multicamera comedies (think repeatedly being bashed over the head with a Big Bang Theory box-set while Two and a Half Men is stuck on repeat) and thirty-two procedural dramas (where the most remarkable police detective had a really good memory and a smartphone).
This, however, is also the most fun week of the television calendar.
It’s known as the LA Screenings and it’s where a group of international TV bosses decide if they a) like b) can afford the current crop of US series that will begin to air in September or October (or confusingly, sometimes in January or March or April).
Don’t ask why I was there; I just was and as such I will spend the next few days, weeks and months telling you about a bunch of shows that most of you will start downloading within hours of their US broadcast, while the more moral of you will wait patiently until they are scheduled by your British broadcasting barons.
This year, the US networks (and their studio partners) were essentially trying to scare the shit out of the audience.
ABC’s 666 Park Avenue (starring Lost’s Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams) is a modern day Rosemary’s Baby; The CW’s Cult is a scary TV series based on a scary TV series; there are two new projects based on Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter and Silence of the Lambs (NBC’s Hannibal and Lifetime’s Clarice) and there’s a new Exorcist reboot in the works.
This is not including the fact that the American remake of Will Mellor’s White Van Man (known as The Family Tools on ABC) is absolutely terrifying.
But the most utterly eyeball-wrenchingly frightening pilot was The Following.
The Following was written by Kevin Williamson, the man behind both Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. It stars man of the universe Kevin Bacon as a former FBI agent (and day-to-day drunk) who is brought back into the agency after the eye gouging serial killer he caught escapes from prison and puts together a team of knife wielding replicates.
The show is both extremely well written but more surprisingly is absolutely gruesome. There are half dead torture dogs and more eyeballs on the ground than you would ever expect from the network that currently brings you Modern Family and Glee.
The Following makes American Horror Story look like Ally McBeal.
Network television has largely shied away from the horror business. Understandably, given the overly officious terms of their broadcast licenses and the propensity of god-fearing farmers from Idaho and Utah to spin into a tizzy at the faintest sight of blood and gore. However, given the success of series such as the aforementioned Ryan Murphy-penned cable series and AMC’s zombie drama The Walking Dead, it was inevitable that they would start to test the dark water.
Kevin Williamson is also the perfect choice to lead this charge; a man who understands the nuance of the classic horror story and the modern day meta remake but is also able to talk the same language as middle ranking network executives (see the success of both Dawson’s Creek and The Vampire Diaries).
The Following will become a smash hit and will reinvigorate Bacon’s feature career. It will also sometimes be sick as shit. But more importantly, the show might open the door for more scary stories. Can you imagine if Gossip Girl producer Josh Schwartz teamed with A Serbian Film’s Srdjan Spasojevic to remake Halloween as a weekly procedural or Chuck Klosterman was given the opportunity to resurrect The Twilight Zone?
That would be fucking scary.
*The Following launches in early 2013 on Fox.