The biggest surprise of fall TV premiere season was Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. Who’d have thought that a series claiming George Washington was fighting an apocalyptic war in addition to the Revolutionary War would be successful, let alone incredibly popular? Apparently, the cast — Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie, and Orlando Jones — knew all along.
When the cast of Sleepy Hollow appeared at San Diego Comic Con in July, Mison said they begged the attendees of their panel to watch the show. (Maybe that’s an exaggeration.) A few months later at New York Comic Con, the cast announced Sleepy Hollow had already been renewed for a second season. Fans rejoiced that this strange, scary, quirky, funny, adventurous, and all-around lovable series would be back for a second year.
Still, it’s hard to believe fans can love the show as much as the cast. When asked a good reason to watch Sleepy Hollow while at SDCC, Jones replied, “Oh that’s easy: because it’s the best show on television.” Maybe Jones is psychic, since this was before it had even premiered.
At the Sleepy Hollow NYCC panel, Mison explained his decision process to audition for Ichabod Crane: “This was the last [script] that I read and I instantly had to read it again, because I thought: No! Really? I didn’t believe anyone had the balls to make a show like this. I just couldn’t not be in it, really.”
Every time a cast member talks about Sleepy Hollow it’s easy to see they’re as big of fans of the show as anyone else. In fact, we might have to duke it out Revolutionary War-style with Orlando Jones for the title of super-fan.
Ah, if only the commercials were it. Two minutes or so of slick, cleverly-edited entertainment and – switch! – onto the next ‘show.’ Trouble is, even given our ever-shrinking collective attention span, television producers still have to fill at least 20 more minutes or so with actual storytelling, let alone the double that for an hour broadcast, and on a repeated, weekly basis. When it comes to the horror and sci-fi genres, it seems few other areas of the small screen have ever led to as much misdirection and, oh - let’s be honest – outright disappointment in terms of promising something really good (and far too many times, failing to deliver). With Fox’s new Sleepy Hollow now off and galloping to its eventual fate as only the viewers will determine, Hollywood.com takes a look back over the years to similar fare that looked completely cool in the commercials, only to be anything but come actual air-time.
The Lone Gunmen (FOX, 2001)
A spinoff of The X-Files, The Lone Gunmen followed a group of geeky conspiracy theorists that, inexplicably, deviated from its alien-origins to offer physical comedy and more down-to-Earth plot lines. It lasted but 13 shows.
Manimal (NBC, 1983)
The ultimate example of great-looking promo turning into a flop at airtime, especially when the quasi-superhero with an ability to turn into any animal chooses a hawk or black panther in almost every one of its eight episodes.
Kingdom Hospital (ABC, 2004)
Not even Stephen King, some star power and elongating the planned mini-series to a full show could save this effort. Poor ratings led to its cancellation after only one year.
American Gothic (CBS, 1995)
Yes, even someone as sure-handed as Sam Raimi can misfire, particularly in this Gary Cole, creepy-sheriff vehicle that went bye-bye in a hurry. Produced by former teen idol Shaun Cassidy.
The Secret Circle (CW, 2011)
Take the writer from The Vampire Diaries; substitute witches for vampires and insert a bland cast without any discernible charisma. Voila! The Secret Circle. Twenty-two episodes later, the secret was out – it sucked.
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I'm gonna take issue, from a writing standpoint, with the title of last night's Following episode, "The End is Near." Objectively, yes — the end of the season is very near, exactly one week away. One way or another there will be some kind of ending (probably Parker's, when she's revealed to be a closet Follower), and more than likely Joe will allude 1, 3, or 57 times throughout the episode to the fact that we've reached it. "Oooh, I just love endings, Ryan, don't you?" Joe will say as he torture-reads Hardy passages from his manuscript.
But that's the problem, Joe! This book you're writing is nowhere near completion. Buddy, when you're watching 2-year-old sex tapes of your protagonist/BFF and trying to solidify basic character motivation? You're still in the research phase. (And maybe even procrastinating, if we imagine Followers watch creepy sex videos the way we do YouTube.) So don't tell me we're near the end, Joe/Following writers. Like everything on this show, we're circling somewhere around the middle.
Under strict orders from my therapist to utilize the "one positive, one negative" approach to comments and opinions, I'll say that stuff did happen this week in a way that stuff has maybe not happened for various non-consecutive periods in the past. Joe's Followers finally executed some sort of plan! Maybe it only made sense in the context of a diversion. And maybe it held only the most tenuous of Poe connections ('Mask of the Red Death'), in adherence with the Following charter. But attacking the Havenport Rec Center — when Hardy had specifically told them not to — was definitely a bold counter to those critics who may have suggested they "don't do anything" or "are stupid." Kudos, guys! You're all dead now but hey, you made it into Joe's book*.
*This one I can barely joke around. If there's been any ongoing mystery The Following has tried to stoke, it's why, beyond likely insanity, any one of Joe's 30+ acolytes would devote their lives to his cult. The answer (almost tossed off, by Emma, as she tried to convince Jacob not to run away): because they're all going to get a character based on them in his book! Hahahahahahahahahahaha. Terrorists? They get 67 VIRGINS IN TERRORIST AFTERLIFE. You Follower chumps are getting a fake character name, enshrined in writing that's about on par with my Following recaps (e.g. mediocre). You make the guy who spent $10,000 for a walk-on cameo in the Veronica Marsmovie seem like a brilliant person.
While Hardy and Co. tended to the "murder and mayhem" (JOE'S WORDS, NOT MINE) at the rec center, Joe — along with his new #s 2 and 3, Emma and Jacob, and Claire — were holed up in some poor hostages' home, waiting out the police lockdown. Good news: they really made the most of it! While Joe prepared an Italian feast in the kitchen, Claire bonded with the couple unlucky enough to have been home. The man, it turns out, had worked with Joe in his professorial days. Sure, this was ultimately an unnecessary bit of information that shed no more light on any characters nor wrinkled the plot in any way. But….ummm….
Claire attacked Joe! Again! After falling for the old "just untie me so I can pour this expensive bottle of wine, I know your side hurts," trick, Joe found himself on the losing edge of, in order: 1) a wine bottle 2) a fork and 3) a well-placed kick to the side. "Your book sucks!" Claire should have finished with, but she was in a hurry to get out of there with the professor and his wife. Unlike Joe, or me, not everyone has time for silly verbal barbs.
Parker shot a chick at the rec center massacre. Was she a Follower or an innocent bystander? Neither the writing nor the lighting work would tell us! But I do know, definitively, that Parker was taken by a cadre of Followers. So taken that she was actually thrown into a makeshift coffin and, her whimpering against the first few credits, buried alive. In just 14 episodes, The Following has already kidnapped, eyeball-gouged, stabbed, bludgeoned, and throat-slit more than a few FBI agents. "But burying one of us alive crosses the line," I only wish Hardy had said, but once again the episode playing in my head is very different than the one unfolding via Slingbox. If anyone cared, I think this show could foster a really vibrant fan fiction community.
WHERE WE ARE, heading into the "end": Jacob's dead. Emma loves Joe. Joe hates Claire. Hardy loves Claire. Claire's on a boat. Parker's in a coffin. Joe's in a slump. Weston's a wildcard. Hardy's ex-girlfriend is still out there, presumably reviewing their sex tapes like game footage. Nick or whoever is getting replacement eye surgery (good luck!). Roderick hasn't even received a proper burial. There's one episode left. Flowers can grow even in graveyards. We'll all smile again one day soon.
Follow Henning on Twitter @HenningFog
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Imagine school that day. The loudspeaker crackles to life. "Uhh, attention kids — I mean students. Would Claire Matthews, I repeat would CLAIRE MATTHEWS please come down to the principal's office? There's an urgent matter we need to discuss. No one is going to stab you. Uhh, that's all. CLICK." The math class where this particular Claire Matthews currently sits all turn to her. "Oh my god, Claire, that was so weird! Did you hear those muffled noises?" "Yeah, Claire, I'd think twice about listening to that." Claire is just so confused. Her teacher chimes in. "I think you'd better go, Ms. Matthews." He motions to the door with one of those "I don't make the rules!" expressions on his face, which gives way to one of those "LOL I'm totally a Follower" faces the moment she leaves the room. Should've been paying attention to the news on your iPhone, Claire!
Hot off (what I think was) a semi-decent episode last week, the latest The Following continued in that direction with an outing that was at once bonkers, glib, and oddly focused. Just like its colorful cast of characters! Network show that it is — and hot off a nice write-up in the latest Entertainment Weekly — the show offered a tidy catch-up opening that juxtaposed Hardy and Parker's CIA/NSA/Homeland Security briefing with a scene of Follower HQ in full swing. Or should we say Follower U, for how much this whole operation feels like serial killer state college? Practicing stabbing techniques, tracing phone calls, deprogramming kidnapped little boys. Top it off with chill Professor Carroll always down for a quick Poe discussion section, and you've got the best years of your life. I know I missed fall admission, but maybe I can still get my application in for spring?
At office hours, Prof. Carroll listens intently to one of his newer Followers, Amanda, as she outlines plans for her "chapter" in the "book." (Maybe they should bring in a guest lecturer for a class about the limits of metaphor?) The idea: test the power of love, as well as Ryan Hardy's sanity. The method: killing a bunch of women named Claire Matthews, in the hopes of flushing out Joe's Claire Matthews. The weapons: spear and nail-guns. Writes Joe on the margins of her essay, "Amanda, I think your work shows a lot of creative potential! B+."
Moments later Amanda just gets right to it when she sidles up to a random woman at a local diner, asking her to "tell Ryan Hardy that sometimes love hurts." "You've got crazy eyes and I really need to go!" is what the random woman should say, but before she can get to this her other friend has sat back down. "What's up?!" this friend, Claire nee Matthews, asks with genuine curiosity. Amanda answers honestly, telling Claire she currently has a speargun pointed at her from under the table. Then she shoots her. Writes Joe, "I really like this part. Very weird but good weird. One question: speargun? Feel like a silenced pistol would do the trick but stylization can be fun, too. Keep writing!"
Hardy and Parker show up soon after to study the scene and ID the body, whose name obviously gives Hardy cause for concern. "DON'T LET CLAIRE FIND OUT ABOUT THIS!" he screams. And we can assume, somewhere far offscreen, Claire's Internet and cable have just been turned off. She can't even read this recap! At best she's able to re-read her husband's book about the lighthouse, which suuuuuuuuuucks.
Remember Paul and Jacob? They're BACK, turning up at Jacob's mom's place to get some much-needed medical assistance for Paul. But before we get to that, Jacob's mom has some stuff she needs to air out. "Help me understand this, Jacob!" she asks, a perfectly reasonable request from the mom of an alleged murderer. "I don't think I could explain…" "You're a murderer!" "STOP SAYING THAT, MOM!" In Jacob's defense, he is not technically a murderer (not until later in the episode, anyway). But try telling that to mom! She lays out the truth of Paul's situation — he's got sepsis, and will likely die if he doesn't get a blood transfusion soon. From, you know, a hospital. Suffice it to say Jacob is not thrilled by this option. He hates hospital! Plus he's wanted for murder everywhere.
Emma, meanwhile, continues her seduction of Professor Carroll. But where post-Charlie stabbing he was so turned on, such a psycho-sexual dynamo, operating in a less-frenzied atmosphere Joe seems… cold. Distant. GUYS, RIGHT?! Roderick watches the whole bedroom drama play out from just outside the bedroom and thinks to himself "I can use this!" Which he does, later, at the freshman orientation mocktail party. Spying Emma spying Joe, Roderick approaches her to talk. She's having none of it. He presses, trying to get under her skin. "Joe LOVES his wife, Emma. And yet he slept with you. You? You've got a boyfriend. I think you understand gray areas." Then, to really mess with her, he recites some of the many messages Jacob had left for her. Emma is so over this catty b*llshit and storms off. I'm sure it'll blow over.
What she doesn't know is that however many miles away, one of her former lovers is preparing to leave this world he loved (to stab) so much. We flash back to the first night Paul and Jacob Followed together. It was Jacob's mission, but when he couldn't kill? Paul wound up covering for him. "You owe me!" Paul playfully offered. Tussled his hair. Now, in the present, Jacob is asked to pay that debt…with ASSISTED SUICIDE. Jacob grabs a nearby pillow. Caresses Paul's face with a tenderness I assume he never felt with Emma. Hovers over his friend…and then smothers him to death, Cuckoo's Nest-style. So one-third of the original Follower tripod is now dead. On the plus side? Jacob notches his first kill. Way to go, buddy!
Hardy and the FBI team learn there is one last Claire Matthews out there for Amanda to kill, and track her to what looks like a college steampunk Mardi Gras rave, because everyone was tired with "Golf Pros; Tennis Hos." All too quickly they identify Amanda and Roderick's sex pal, Louise, who in turn have identified their Claire Matthews. Everyone's running. Followers are stabbing. Cops are helping. Followers are killing. Hardy chases down Louise outside the party. "What are you going to do, Ryan, shoot me?" And in a victory over that sort of lame thriller setup, he DOES. We all cheered!
Finally Hardy catches up to Amanda and Claire, who has a nail-gun pointed at her face. Hardy pleads with Amanda to put the gun down and walk away. "It doesn't work that way! She has to die!" When Ryan points out that the Claire she's holding hostage isn't Joe's Claire, the English major in Amanda just SNAPS. "IT'S A FREAKIN' METAPHOR, RYAN!" Even near-killing or -death, the characters on The Following have a grave respect for literary technique. Hardy presses forward, confessing his love for (Joe's) Claire. As a trade, he suggests, he'll offer himself in her place. Dude's got crazy eyes. He keeps walking. Amanda balks — which is just the moment he needs to grab her gun and apprehend her.
Joe and Roderick quickly learn of Amanda's apprehension and Louise's demise. Neither of which seem to faze Roderick, who it turns out was pretty "meh" on the whole Louise thing. Good thing Follower U is just overflowing with serial killer strange, bro! And anyway, there's some good news mixed in with the bad — somehow, through efforts conducted entirely off-screen, they've managed to track down the original Claire Matthews. Joe flashes that devilish(ly annoying) sexy-professor smile.
Later Emma is prompted by Roderick to see what's at the front door. And just like you guessed, it's Jacob — angry, newly murderous, hated-by-his-mother Jacob. "Hello, Emma" is his cold greeting. But things are about to get WHITE HOT.
On that note: solid ep! Are you guys with me in seeing some subtle improvements these past two weeks, or should I consider this revised assessment of mine the first sign in a full-on psychological collapse? I have been playing an unhealthy amount of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" lately. But who knows!
Follow Henning on Twitter @HenningFog
[PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Lavine/FOX]
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