The Following (Fox, Mondays at 9 p.m.) marks Kevin Bacon’s attempt to edge back into our collective stream of awareness with his move to television. The Baconator is, somewhat remarkably, back and in good form in this psychological thriller. While a serial killer mastermind obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe may seem to be a bit generic and worthy of a CBS spot, Fox manages to turn a somewhat hollowed out concept into a thrilling character drama with enough of a plot to keep the episodes dynamic and interesting — at least for this season. Its Monday line-up position behind Bones puts the much darker, more serious series in an awkward position, but take the time to tune in, or DVR it. Hulu hosts their most recent episodes, so make sure to catch up ASAP.
Spacey stars in Netflix’s second self-produced television series and proves that an HBO or Showtime budget isn’t needed to produce brilliant alternative content. The show follows a South Carolina Democratic whip — a powerful congressman and political mastermind who plays political chess against the whole of Washington. Spacey’s performance renders a wonderful three-dimensional, villainous protagonist who you love and hate simultaneously. The direction and writing is stellar, nuanced, and well-composed. All thirteen episodes are now available on Netflix, so make sure you have a full day to get absorbed in this political drama.
Arrow (CW, Wednesdays at 8 p.m.) is not a show for everyone, but for anyone who shamelessly embraces melodrama masked in thinly veiled action scenes, Arrow delivers. The CW has dominated the melodrama market over the past ten years with shows ranging from DC comics, to vampires, to highschool drama, and angels and demons. Arrow, the CW’s attempt to reboot DC comic’s socialist hero, The Green Arrow, is targeted to the 99% mentality, and while its political-economic message is ideologically unclear (so we still need billionaires to save us, even from millionaires?), it offers a dark adventure show revolving around the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Some of the characters may be flat, but the persistant drama, action, and strange conspiracies keep the show alive and quite watchable — especially on a cold winter’s night. Another Hulu Plus show, it’s a great way to burn a Saturday afternoon.
Banshee (Cinemax, Fridays at 10 p.m.) is a first effort at a heavy-hitter cable series for a network whose traditional original content offered up the name “Skinimax” for public consumption. In staying with their darker, more graphic nature, Cinemax manages a fairly strong showing of crime, noir, and – dare I say – a little bit of Batman in their newest program based on an ex-thief playing sheriff in a small Dutch Pennsylvania town called Banshee. Battling a micro mob, hiding from his past, and relentlessly pursuing his lost love, Banshee offers a borderline sociopathic view of small town communities. Think Footloose with guns, fists fights, and graphic sex scenes. With a fair dose of anxiety. Unfortunately, Cinemax is the only officiated place to find this series, so you might want to consider a subscription.
Spartacus reimagines the hero as the leader of a Roman slave rebellion, fighting his way to freedom, and eventually war with the Roman Empire. Graphically violent, dark, and brutally imagined, Spartacus hypnotizes you in a rain of brotherhood and murder. The final season depicts the full on war that Spartacus wages against Rome and its armies, and its spectacle matches its scale. This show reminds us that Starz original programming is worth the subscription.