That sound you heard at about 9:59 Monday night was anyone who's been watching "The Following" on Fox – the creepy Kevin Bacon serial killer show – shouting "Bullshit." That's sure what we did.
But there's a lesson to be learned. I guess, that applies to writing. There's always a lesson to be learned, whether you're watching people, or reading something really good, or watching something on TV that's really shitty.
We like Bacon, so we gave "The Following" a look, and at first it was OK. But about four episodes ago, when the female cop suddenly shot the FBI agent so the psycho bitch could get away with the kid, because the female cop turned out to be – gasp! – part of the serial killer's cult army of devoted followers, I thought, "That's pretty cheap." In fact, right before it happened, I turned to Tori and said, "She's gonna shoot him." It was pretty obvious, and obvious is what TV does best. It's the show's signature. The villain has a never-ending supply of devotees who can outgun the FBI and out plot everyone. In other words, "shocking" things happen not because they make sense, but because the writers wish it so.
Last night was the last straw. Nothing in the episode made sense. If you thought about it, the whole episode was superfluous because it involved Bacon's character trying to save the woman from being captured by the psycho army, only to have the woman decide to go ahead and go off with them on her own. And she'd already done that once, a month ago and it didn't work then, so there was no way she'd do it again. That was just dumb. It was the arbitrary actions of a character under the command of shallow writers.
Monday when the "big shocker" happened – or what the writers obviously thought would be the big shocker – happened right at the end – you could just hear the writers saying to themselves, "This'll be so cool. It'll make them scream!" All it did was make me and Tori shout simultaneously, "Bullshit!" Not "Holy smokes!" or "Whoa! Didn't see that coming." We shouted "Bullshit," and "Bullshit" is what we meant.
When the writers let you see how clever they think they are, all it does is piss you off.
I don't care any more. I'm done with it. Kevin Bacon is on his own. We're not following "The Following" any further. But there was a lesson for us as writers – There's a big difference between being clever – for instance, watch the BBC's "Sherlock" – and being smugly manipulative
Respect your characters, and respect your readers. Don't waste a lot of time showing off.