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‘The Following’ killer new FOX series

It was beginning to look like cable was the only place to find great drama with programming such as “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead,” “Dexter” and “American Horror Story.”

FOX shows with “The Following,” scheduled to launch at 9 p.m. Jan. 21 on KMPH (Channel 26.1), that’s there’s still some creative life in the networks. The new thriller is the most addictive network show to come along since “Lost” but while the mystery is as thick as a unkindness of ravens, it certainly isn’t as confusing. This is just a smart story about the battle between good and evil that will be your next TV addiction.

Kevin Bacon stars in his first TV series playing burned out FBI agent Ryan Hardy. He’s a broken man who gets called back to duty when charismatic teacher turned serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) escapes from prison. What makes this production from Kevin Williamson (“The Vampire Diaries”) so intriguing is that unlike a typical escapee story, Hardy captures Carroll in the first episode. This allows for the pair to square off in psychological battles as Carroll’s followers continue his dirty deeds.

The series gets an even darker tone by the use of Edgar Allan Poe’s work as a backdrop to all of the death and destruction. Poe’s twisted and macabre writings send a charge through each step of the mystery that is chilling.

But, it’s Bacon and Purefoy who make this work so compelling,. Bacon, who thought he was reading a script for a feature film when he first read “The Following,” has the gaunt features and tired eyes that make him look like a man who has faced the devil and paid the price for a victory. He knows no happiness, just a determination driven by duty to stop this man and his psychotic minions.

Purefoy’s the perfect foil. He plays the role as a man whose heart is evil, but there’s a charm about him that makes it easy to believe he could get a large group of people to do his bidding. He gets as much joy from watching Hardy struggle with the mystery as he does causing pain.

“The Following” will immediately have you doubting everyone. By the end of watching the third episode, there were moments where it seemed possible I could be the serial killer. There’s no way to be a passive observer as each tiny move by the characters could be a clue to their involvement.

This show pushes past what has been acceptable on network TV in terms of subject matter. It’s not as strong as a cable show, but this is not a series for the young or faint of heart. As to watching the new FOX series, those people should say nevermore.

Those who dare enter the dark world of “The Following” will find it a mesmerizing journey that will leave you craving the next episode.