Tuesday, February 19, 2013


In the last few weeks, we've had one terrible new network drama (The Following) about an insidious cult of serial killers, and another terrible new network drama (Zero Hour) about a convoluted, wide-ranging conspiracy. The CW's new drama Cult combines both of these misguided concepts into one series, and then adds in an evil television show for good measure. Creator Rockne S. O'Bannon (Farscape) has a decent reputation in genre TV, but the first episode of Cult is an incoherent mess, as laughably confused as Zero Hour and nearly as unpleasantly grim as The Following.

The idea is that a creepy TV show (which airs on The CW, of course) is somehow inspiring its most rabid fans to commit violent acts as directed by the main villain on the show. Or at least that's what seems to be happening, since the pilot is all about vague ominous hints and very few concrete details about what's going on. A disgraced reporter (Matthew Davis) whose brother has gone missing after investigating the show teams up with one of the show's researchers (Jessica Lucas) to dig into the mysterious activities of the fans, and they discover ... something sinister, although it's not exactly clear what that is.

Cult fails pretty miserably at creating a sense of danger and menace, exemplified by the "creepy" catch phrase that victims both on the show and in the real world utter just before dying ("Well hey, these things just snap right off"). All of the suspense is hilariously overwrought and completely unconvincing, and while there's a hint of campy satire in the portrayal of the network executive trying to give the show's reclusive-genius creator notes, Cult doesn't really have a coherent perspective on TV fandom or serialized genre entertainment. You'd think a genre TV show looking to engender a cult following would be good at representing a genre TV show with a cult following, but the show-within-the-show rings false. Thus we're left with the dour, incoherent mystery, which offers no enticement to tune in again. It's doubtful Cult will inspire its fans to do anything more drastic than change the channel.

Premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on The CW.

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