Are serial killers the saas-bahus of American TV? I mean, there are so many shows with serial killers, the latter seem to be the dominant motif of American television — just the way saas-bahus are for us. (There couldn’t be two more dissimilar themes, so what does that say about TV viewers of the two countries?)
All the American serial killer shows look like they’ve come out of some big, dark, cavernous, assembly line factory, crammed with inspirational books such as In The Mind Of A Serial Killer, Yes, You Can Make One More Series About A Serial Killer, Why Serial Killers Will Never Go Out Of Fashion, When The Boston Stranger Met Jack The Ripper -- Part 97 and so on and so forth.
I imagine our saas-bahu soaps come out of zari-bordered factories with several layers of make-up; the gates might have giant mangalsutras draped on them. And the inspirational books will definitely be different; maybe One Hundred Ways To Be Like Lalita Pawar or The Bahu’s Handbook To
America’s serial killer shows often follow such a familiar pattern, you’d have to be half-witted not to figure it out. Here’s how it usually goes:
One — There’s a crazy, unhinged serial killer out there, committed to murdering young girls. He also happens to be highly charismatic, cerebral and sophisticated (no one, it seems, wants to see an overweight, unattractive, not very bright serial killer.)
Two — He kills imaginatively and often thinks of himself as an artist or a man with an important mission.
Three — There’s a dysfunctional/damaged/also slightly crazy FBI agent who’s hunting him. The two have some deep, undefinable, karmic connection; often, the killer plays a complicated catch-me-if-you-can game with the FBI agent.
The thing is, many of these shows are slickly made and have some accomplished actors. The serial killers we’ve encountered so far have appeared in Hannibal, Criminal Minds, Dexter (of course, here the protagonist himself is a serial killer) and the latest, The Following. (We’re still waiting to see some of the other new shows, such as The Cult, The Fall etc).
The Following, which debuted early this year in America, has just wound up its first season here (Zee Café). This Fox show takes the serial killer trope one level up. Here, not only is the handsome, intelligent, well-read Joe Carroll a lethal serial killer (played by the good looking British actor James Purefoy), he’s also so charismatic that he’s founded a cult of frenzied killers who are willing to die for him. So FBI agent Ryan Hardy (American actor Kevin Bacon), not only has to deal with Carroll, but also his army of crazed, zombie-type fanatical followers. All through the series, Carroll plays out a pre-scripted, sinister storyline which is supposed to end with Hardy’s defeat and death.
The Following is very creepy but very riveting. It’s taut and racy, but also darkly disquieting. The first season has ended on a cliffhanger, so 2014 seems very far away (that’s when we’ll get to see season two). Seasons are great for maintaining the overall quality of a show, but sometimes they feel like extremely annoying speedbreakers.
But after all these scary shows bristling with malevolent people whom you hope to never meet in your life, it’s a relief to get on to something like The Big Bang Theory, which gives you full bang for your buck. Sheldon, Raj and gang — you cheer me up.