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Get ready for Kevin Bacon's 'The Following' (or gird yourself)

"The Following" -- starring Kevin Bacon and the man who could have been Bond, James Purefoy — arrives Monday, and no time like the present to read my review — below. But prepare yourself for the series: It's grim and grisly, though (interestingly) not quite as grim/grisly in later episodes. The show has attracted an enormous amount of attention, not all of it favorable (too violent) while critics went after it during the recent press tour in Pasadena. But there has been plenty of advance buzz on this show and it could well attract a crowd when it begins Monday.

“The Following,” WNYW/5, 9

What it's about: On death row for the murder of 14 female students, serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy, “Rome”) escapes from prison because he has one last murder to commit. But no garden variety serial killer, charismatic Carroll was formerly a college prof inspired by Edgar Allan Poe – while his grisly murders were in a sense designed to enrich or at least reflect Poe's macabre symbolism. The FBI, of course, has no clue how to catch this guy, and reaches out to the former agent who caught him years earlier, Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon). Ryan's got baggage: He drinks hard; had an affair with Joe's wife, Claire (Natalie Zea), but also understands Carroll's game. From prison he had assembled a cult of followers, other serial killers who are dispatching victims for him.

My say: Once upon a midnight dreary while I pondered weak and weary . . . aah, no, actually it was a bleak December day when the review copy of “The Following” arrived from Fox. “Never more,” I said to myself, “will I watch a TV show or movie about serial killers, even if 'The Vampire Diaries’' Kevin Williamson produces it and Kevin Bacon stars. Never more . . ." And then I realized, what the heck, it's my job. I have to. And with that, consider this critical rebuke strictly personal: “The Following is” is a bummer of significant proportions. Not that it's bad — it's not — but bleak, sordid, blood-spattered and creepy (though not necessarily always “creepy” in a good way, like “The Walking Dead"). Williamson was scolded by some critics at the recent press tour for mounting (however inadvertently) such a violent show post-Newtown. But that missed the point: Who really EVER wants to see butchered people, most of them women, with bodies disemboweled, and eyes scooped out? The real world is brutal enough. We don't need TV to shove that harsh reminder down our throats.

Bottom line: That said, could this well-acted, reasonably well-structured series become the hit Fox expects? Quite possibly yes. There IS a reason, after all, why “Criminal Minds” is such a hit.

Grade: C+

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