By Matt Ern Columnist
The Following- "The Pot's Fire"
“The Following” is a basic cable attempt to match acclaimed dramas such as “Breaking Bad,” “Dexter,” or “Game of Thrones” that have found success on other channels. Unfortunately, FOX seems to think the formula for a successful cable drama is related to being able to show copious amounts of violence, because “The Following” is chock full of gore. But it’s all over the top and empty, entirely there for shock value and not serving the story at all. The show takes itself extremely seriously; I’ve never seen a show try so hard to be something it’s not. For all its ambition, “The Following” will never be anything more than a basic cable drama.
Kevin Bacon does his best to muddle through a show with a plot built mostly on cheap twists, gore and a premise that is shameful to a person who has ever seen a decent show before. Does it sound petty to complain about every minute detail of a show down to the music cues? Well I’m going to do it anyway. “The Following” is not very good.
I did appreciate the fact that this week’s cold open added some context to the scene that closed out episode two -- a man in an Edgar Allen Poe mask dousing someone in gasoline and lighting them on fire on a busy street in broad daylight before quietly walking away while no one attempts to stop him. Apparently this was done in the “historical district” (whatever that means) so that’s supposed to explain why no one tried to apprehend the crazy man lighting people on fire. It’s seemingly random, empty violence like this that has become the hallmark of “The Following.”
There’s a lot of eye gouging going on too, which is supposed to be edgy but merely comes across as needlessly grotesque and off-putting. “The Poet’s Fire” offers some more backstory development, but in the end it does little to salvage the show. There’s something to be said about the way the writers are trying to build a mythology around its central serial killer and his cult but like everything else about the show it falls flat.
“The Following” is certainly… something, for lack of a better word. I’m entertained watching it, but not it in way it was probably intended, I suspect.
30 Rock- "Hogcack/Last Lunch"
If you were on the internet at all last week you were probably inundated with news of the impending “30 Rock” finale. Luckily this review isn’t showing up in print until a week after the episode aired, so just when you thought you didn’t have to hear any more about the show, I can subject you to a few more hundred words about it.
“30 Rock” was, and still is, an important show for a number of reasons, and all of those reasons are on display in the double-episode finale. At its strongest, “30 Rock” pushed the limits of what a half-hour sitcom could do without sacrificing rapid fire laughs. And even during its weaker, middle seasons it was still one of the funniest show on TV, despite the plot running in circles a bit. Thankfully, the show ended on a triumphant final season with a particularly strong last episode.
By the end of the previous episode, everyone seems to have gotten exactly what they’ve always wanted: Liz has a family, Jack has his dream job, and Kenneth has become the president of NBC. But Liz and Jack quickly realize that they’ve corrupted each other and neither is truly happy with the dreams they’ve achieved. Liz will only be happy working, and thanks to a bizarre clause in Tracy’s contract, she’s conveniently obligated to write and produce one last episode of TGS, which gives everyone one last chance to say goodbye.
For an episode containing storylines in which Pete prepares to fake his own death and Jack tricks Liz into thinking he’s going to commit suicide, there are plenty of laughs throughout the hour. But where “Last Lunch” succeeds isn’t the comedy, it’s the heart. Liz’s goodbye to Tracy in the strip club softens us up for her last scene with Jack, at which point there ought to be tears on your cheeks if you’ve followed the show for seven seasons and have a beating heart. And Jenna’s performance of the “Rural Juror” song was somehow the funniest and most sentimental thing I’ve seen in a while.
The “One Year Later” tag is sweet as well, showing how close everyone has stayed. Tracy’s dad even comes back from getting cigarettes decades ago. The final moments, confirming the long-hinted-at fact that Kenneth is immortal, are a perfect way to end “30 Rock.” It’s the only show that could pull something like that off, and that’s really the only way it could have ended.
After seven years, and something like four amazing seasons and a few pretty-okay ones, “30 Rock” gave us one last reminder of why it was as talked about as it was. There may never be another show like it, so let’s all be glad we had it while we did.