TV pilots are always tricky. Even the best show can start out rough. Seinfeld took three seasons before it hit its stride. With this in mind, one has to consider not just what is shown on screen, but what also the potential of what is not. Cult, the new meta-series from Farscape mastermind Rockne S. O’Bannon, has an especially rough pilot, but it also has great potential. Hit the jump for a summary of the pilot and more info on the show.
Cult is the kind of show that is so high concept, it loops all the way back around into being convoluted. It’s a new CW series about a fictional cultish CW series that focuses on a cult that may or may not be linked to a real cult. At various times, the pilot recalls They Live, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Scream, Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fight Club, Alcatraz, Lost and especially The Ring.
The pilot begins with a faux-documentary about a cult leader named Billy Grimm (Robert Keppner) who looks a bit like Jim Jones and acts a bit like Charles Manson. From here, we move into a police procedural, which in turn becomes the show-within-the-show. And it pretty much goes on like that.
The premiere settles into a less frantic rhythm when The Vampire Diaries’ Matt Davis takes center stage as a formerly prestigious journalist fallen on hard times who teams up with Jessica Lucas, an intern on the fictional show Cult, to investigate the real disappearance of his junkie brother, who obsessed over the show-within-a-show in the period before he went missing. Eventually, the search leads to a disturbing website, a terrified phone call and possibly a downloadable blood virus.
The creators are clearly having fun with their deeply-couched concept. In the episode’s best scene, the protagonist matches eye line with a fictional character who is denoted as fictional by the faux-CW logo hidden in the lower left corner. And the ‘real’ world versus ‘show’ world is offset by subtly satirical shifts in film stock, make up style and acting choices. It’s all very clever, but it doesn’t even come close to cohesiveness by the closing credits.
Or is it?
During the panel, O’Bannon gleefully explained that there is a concrete answer at the end of this story and that scenes from the planned series finale actually appear as subliminal jump cuts in the pilot. The gimmick is reminiscent of season two of Breaking Bad, and if they can play it out half as well here, Cult could be an all time great.
Honestly, I probably won’t watch this. But, I also think that I would be more inclined to follow this one than any of the shows currently on the CW. If you like this type of thing, there is something to chew on. Otherwise, eh.