Fall 2014 Preview: Stalker

(airs Wednesdays at 10pm ET on CBS)

Aggressively tone deaf and “creepy” in the worst ways possible (something it’s oddly proud of), Stalker is arguably the worst show of the fall (and during what’s been a fairly sub-par year for pilots, is saying something). Created by Kevin Willamson, the man behind Scream and The Following, Stalker is the latest crime procedural on American television to hang its hat on violence against women. In fact, Stalker‘s entire premise can be boiled down to one single, supremely offensive thought:

“If women would just stop being attractive (and rejecting men who notice it), they wouldn’t get stalked so damn much!”

For 42 minutes, it beats the audience over the head with this idea, thanks to the wonderful idea to show us multiple scenes of women being stalked – something that appears to be this show’s visual M.O., an unsettling shift in the normal formula of procedurals only showing the investigation that follows the crime (maybe with a flashback or two, if necessary). Nope: Stalker wants us to feel stalked, to feel suffocated by its blind misogyny and tedious, cardboard placards for characters. It wants us to feel like we’re as pretty as Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott, then get under our skin and make us feel as helpless and paranoid as one in six women in America do EVERY YEAR (a fact Stalker appears to revel in).

It’s really a soul-sucking excercise to sit through this dreck, which begins with a woman being lit on fire, and stars a woman who heads a fucking crime assessment unit. That’s right: she doesn’t actually work as an investigator, but as a person who points fingers and screams “This person is high potential to be a stalker!” (they don’t need to identify stalkees: if you’re female, you’re probably being stalked while you read this sentence). And since she dresses sexy, of course she’s been stalked and lives in fear of being stalked again, giving her entire career and destroyed marriage (since she lives alone; either that, or he was murdered) the obligatory Personal Touch that nobody cares about.

As her co-star Dylan McDermott the Badass, Shades-Wearing Philanderer (and semi-stalker himself) points out, if she didn’t dress like she wanted people to pay attention to her, she probably wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. And since he’s trying to “change who he is” (by following the woman whose marriage he helped ruin – also the mother of his child – across the country), he’s in a place to judge, to discern what’s appropriate for our instinctual, yet perpetually frightened, female protagonist a strong, bearded presence to listen to.

I could write more about Stalker, but what’s the point. A show this vapid and sexist has no business making it to air, especially when it focuses on such a disgusting type of crime, with nothing to say about it except “Look how fucking creepy this is – isn’t it awesome!” (and of course, “You whores probably deserve this!”). And who cares about the serialized story it teases at the end of the pilot: it’s more fabric from the same cloth, setting up stories for both our protagonists, that only paint them in even less-endearing light than before… but what else can you expect from a show trying to cash in on the entertainment value of stalking, intimidating, and frightening women?

I’m not sure why a show like Stalker needs to exist: I’d rather watch 100 episodes of a mediocre NCIS spin-off than sit through another hour of this pandering, exploitative garbage (plus: how you gonna bury Maggie Q in something this bad? It makes me sad to see such a kick-ass actress in such a terrible, demeaning role). But with The Following enters its third season (another terrible Willamson vehicle) and CSI: Cyber on the way, maybe I’m just out of touch with what Americans find to be titillating escapist drama.  I really hope I’m not, because this show is horrible.

Grade: F

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