Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"The Following" vs. "Homeland" - And Two Princeton Basketball Legacies

TigerBlog has watched this show "The Following" since it began this season.

Ever heard of it? This is the one with Kevin Bacon, who plays somebody who has some sort of connection to the FBI and to a serial killer he arrested a long time ago. It also stars the woman who played the assistant DA who was killed on "Law & Order" and a guy who sort of reminds you a little of Hugh Jackman.

The show follows the serial killer, who escapes not once but twice from death row, and Bacon's character's continued pursuit of him. The serial killer, by the way, is the Hugh Jackman-looking guy.

Anyway, it seems that the serial killer has put together a cult - his "following" as it were - that is helping him carry out some scheme to reunite him with his ex-wife and son. Oh, and obviously the ex-wife and Kevin Bacon were in love, broke up and are now figuring out they're still in love.

The plot has so many holes in it that it's hard to watch it without intermittent eye-rolling.

For instance, the combination of the way the cult members have been embedded into society and the actions they need to perform from these positions in society to make the plan work are completely over the top.

For it to be plausible, then the squirrelly woman who plays the meek cop in the small town where three of the cult followers hole up has to have been put there years in advance and has to be working at the exact moment she's working, after having gotten everyone in the small town to trust her.  And then she has to be the one who gets Kevin Bacon in the car and drives around with him and then, at the last minute, turns out to be one of the cult people.

And the actions of the law enforcement people are often just plain dumb. Seriously, just call for backup one time and everything will be fine.

Still, there are enough dramatic plot twists and surprises to make the show worth, well, following, at least for this season. TB is pretty sure he's bailing after Year 1, in which he has invested 10 episodes, with five to go.

TB is also pretty sure he knows how "The Following" came to be. The good people at Fox had a production meeting at which someone said something like "hey, you know what we need? A show like 'Homeland.' "

At that point, the rest of the people in the meeting said "hey, that's a great idea. All we need is a plot we can stretch through 15 episodes and someone famous to headline the cast."

Here's the problem, though. "The Following" is borderline watchable. "Homeland" is the best television show TigerBlog has ever seen.

What it proves is that it's not the formula. It's the execution of the formula.

"Homeland" works because the implausibilities don't come close to overwhelming the great character development and storylines. On "The Following" the opposite is true. Any good character development is lost on the ridiculous nature of what is happening.

Yes, "The Following" is creative enough and well-thought-out enough that it keeps TB watching. But that's also what infuriates him most. It could be so much better with not that much more thought put into it.

Also, the characters on "The Following" are too formulaic. Kevin Bacon is "good." Dead Assistant DA from Law & Order woman is "administrative." Hugh Jackman-looking guy is "evil."

On "Homeland," Claire Danes character is both the heroine and the most completely flawed human being on the show. The characters on "Homeland" are very human, not just caricatures.

The biggest difference between the shows can be seen in the one person who actually played a supporting role in both. Turns out her name is Marin Ireland, and she was nominated for a Tony Award in 2009 for a play called "reasons to be pretty."

As an aside, TB much prefers musicals to plays.

Anyway, Ireland played similar characters in both shows. In "Homeland," she was one of the, well, followers, this time of the terrorists. She's the one who ends up in prison, where Mandy Pantinkin visits her. On "The Following," she's also a follower, this time a deranged psycho killer.

In "Homeland," her character is so complex that the viewer at once feels sorry for her, wonders how many real-life versions of her there are out there and is repulsed by what she's done. In many ways, her presence, even in her small role, defines the whole show, which is about ordinary people who are caught up in extraordinary events and who wrestle with their own good and evil.

In "The Following," she's just a crazy psycho - and entertaining one, but one without any real depth.

It's the difference between an epic all-time great show and an okay one.

Speaking of epic all-time greats, and with some obligation to talk Princeton sports here, the careers of two all-time greats in Princeton basketball have come to end.

On the men's side, there's Ian Hummer.

On the women's side, there's Niveen Rasheed.

They were both the Ivy League Player of the Year this year, marking the first time Princeton has had both the men's and women's winner in the same season.

It was the second straight year that Rasheed won, and she could have won as a freshman - Columbia's Judie Lomax led the league in scoring at 18.6 per game while Rasheed was second at 15.8, though Princeton finished five games ahead of the Lions. And, had she not torn her ACL her sophomore year, she might have won that year and not Addie Micir, her Princeton teammate.

Rasheed finished her career with 1,617 points, eight fewer than Hummer's 1,625. Had it not been for the torn ACL, Rasheed would have approached 2,000 career points and easily been Princeton's career leader, instead of finishing 66 points behind Sandi Bittler.

So where does Rasheed stand?

She's the greatest women's basketball player in Princeton history and one of the three best in Ivy history, along with Harvard's Allison Feaster and Penn's Diana Caramanico, both of whom were three-time Players of the Year. A realistic case could be made for any of the three to be the greatest.

That much is clear and has been basically since the beginning of her freshman year.

And Hummer's legacy? Well, he's not the greatest player in school history like Rasheed obviously, and that conversation is over forever, because it will always be Bill Bradley.

In the more than 30 years that TB has been watching Princeton play basketball, he can't remember anyone who was a more exciting player than Hummer, at least in terms of his ability to do the spectacular at any given moment. And TB isn't just talking about dunking.

Hummer finished his career second all-time at Princeton in points but also fourth all-time in assists. In many ways, he's a more athletic version of Kit Mueller, who was the center on three Ivy League championship teams from 1989-91 and who was the second all-time leading scorer for 21 years, until Douglas Davis passed him last year and Hummer this year. Mueller is also second in assists at Princeton.

Here are some of the men's players TB has seen play at Princeton: Mueller, Bob Scrabis, Sean Jackson, Rick Hielscher, Chris Mooney, Matt Eastwick, Chris Young, Brian Earl, Gabe Lewullis, Steve Goodrich, Nate Walton, Sydney Johnson, Mitch Henderson, James Mastaglio, Mason Rocca, Judson Wallace and Will Venable. That's a pretty elite list.

Where does Hummer rank among those guys? Once you figure that out, then you can add in all the great players who were a little before TB's time.

Wherever he ranks, it's pretty high.

Like Rasheed, Hummer is an all-time great.

If nothing else, it will be weird when next year starts and neither one of them is still here.

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