For being one of the bloodiest, most sexist, and most exploitative shows on TV, the Wednesday, November 12th episode of CBS’ Stalker (10:00 p.m. ET) deserves recognition for being the Worst TV Show of the Week.
Following in the tracks of his earlier series The Following, which wallows in graphic gore while glorifying a psychotic serial killer and his “murder cult” of worshippers, this fall Kevin Williamson has given TV viewers Stalker – another show built on exploitation and fear. Women especially are targets on the program, a trend which started with the first minutes of the first episode, which depicted a woman being doused with gasoline and set on fire, and was seen again in a later episode, which featured a woman being graphically tortured.
Williamson’s war on women continued last week, as detectives Jack and Beth investigate the case of a famous actress who was attacked in her own home by an obsessed fan. In the episode’s first moments, an actress (scantily clad in a bikini, naturally – gotta mix some sexual titillation in with the scene of a woman being assaulted, don’cha know!) walks through her home and finds thing have been disturbed by someone. Music is playing, food is cooking, the table is set, and the actress finds rose petals strewn across her bed. Suddenly, she is grabbed by a masked intruder. She runs from him and locks herself in a panic room, watching him flee in the security cameras.
“He’s possibly a virgin, but he’s not into sex. He’s looking for a love connection,” notes detective Jack about the stalker, who is pursuing actress Nina. But a “love connection” isn’t ALL the stalker wants; a later scene shows him watching Nina’s television drama Savage Shore, in which two men fight over Nina, one beating another with a metal bar. Nina’s stalker mimes the action with a metal bar, hitting a punching bag.
The detectives fairly rapidly track down the stalker and arrest him, but not before he attacks another woman in her car by smashing out the driver’s side window. She runs away from him and into the street where she is struck by a car. (Yes, on this misogynistic series, even the women who ESCAPE from their stalkers have to die somehow.)
However, the detectives discover the stalker’s mother, Nancy, had fed her son’s obsession by writing him emails while posing as actress Nina. In revenge for her son’s arrest and deranged with her own fanaticism, Nancy begins stalking Nina herself. Nancy stabs Nina’s private security guard in the stomach, with viewers “treated” to a close-up of the bloodied knife in her hand.
Nancy then tries to stab Nina, but Nina throws hot tea in her face and runs away. Nancy chases her with the knife. Nina hides under the trailer and sees the bloody corpse of her security guard. Nancy finds Nina and tries to stab her. They fight and struggle on the ground. Luckily, Jack and Beth arrive just in time and grab Nancy from behind.
But this grisly scenario isn’t all. A subplot of the program is that detective Beth is also being stalked herself by a man named Perry. Perry inveigles his way into his victim’s life by carrying on a sexual relationship with Beth’s roommate Tracy, using sex with her as an opportunity to snoop inside Beth’s home. Naturally, viewers are also shown graphic scenes of Perry and Tracy in bed together.
What at age group does CBS aim this show about victimizing women? Why, 14 year olds, of course – as shown by the program’s TV-14 content rating.
Opposing those who point to the non-stop victimization of women on the show, Williamson claims that Stalker is an “equal opportunity offender,” with men being stalked on the program as well as women – but it is a fact that none of the stalkers of men have been shown, say, hiding in an attic and masturbating while gazing down through a peephole at their victim.
From its first episode, the PTC has noted CBS’ Stalker as one of the worst new shows on TV this fall – nor were we alone in our assessment. Professional TV critics have greeted Stalker with rave reviews like the following:
Hank Steuver, The Washington Post: “Unsparing with both its grisliness and its deeply negative regard for human nature.”
Diane Werts, Newsday: “All about the women-in-terror kick…Reprehensible.”
Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times: “Unforgivable…violence, creepiness and depravity appear to be the point.”
Maureen Ryan, The Huffington Post: “A putrid, badly-written crapfest packed with violence against women…Exploitative, misogynist trash.”
Matt Roush, TV Guide: “TV really doesn’t get much uglier or more cynical than CBS’s Stalker.”
Indeed it doesn’t. For pushing violence against women into every living room in America at times while children are watching, CBS’ Stalker is the Worst TV Show of the Week.
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