Pilot Perception: Cult

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Cult, The CW in the U.S. and CTV Two in Canada, Tuesdays at 9/8c

The Pedigree: The show was created by Rockne S. O’Bannon (Farscape,) who executive produces along with Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz (Gossip Girl, The O.C., etc.). The pilot was written by O’Bannon and directed by Jason Ensler (Chuck, Franklin & Bash).

The Cast & How You Know Them: Cult stars Matt Davis (The Vampire Diaries), Jessica Lucas (Melrose Place), Alona Tal (Veronica Mars, Supernatural), and Robert Knepper (Prison Break, Heroes).

The Premise: When investigative journalist Jeff Sefton’s brother disappears, Jeff realizes that it has something to do with Cult, the TV show about a cult leader and cult-member-turned-detective that his brother was obsessed with. With the help of Skye, a research assistant on the show, he begins investigating the dark world of Cult and its fans.

A Taste:

What Works: I was impressed at how much the pilot managed to establish both in terms of the show and the show within the show, and how well it did at melding them together. (Honestly, in some ways I’d actually rather be watching the show within the show.) The leads are decent, and the pilot left me honestly wanting to know what happens next. It’s also delightfully meta, especially given that the show within the show is in fact supposed to be on the CW.

What Doesn’t: The basic concept of the show requires a leap that some audiences won’t be willing or able to make: that a TV show fandom could evolve into a dangerous real-life cult. Honestly, as someone who has seen a fair amount of horrible things coming out of various fandoms, I don’t find the insanity unbelievable, but I am skeptical that the fans could manage to be that organized and stop in-fighting long enough to actually pull off a murder conspiracy. And while, as I mentioned, I enjoyed the meta aspects, it sometimes went so far as to read as in-jokes that might be off-putting to the audience. Also, seriously, there’s a cafe whose business model is people watching CW shows together? That would be awesome, but, um, in your dreams, CW.

Our Favorite Line: “It’s all about the numbers, my friend. Only the numbers.” “Our audience is crazy passionate.” Oh, CW.

You Might Like This if you like psychological thrillers with lots of twists and turns, like The Following, or if you’re fascinated by this vision of what the dark side of fandom could look like – or just want to see how the CW imagines a fictional fandom for one of its own shows.

If You’re Interested: Cult premieres on the CW and CTV Two tomorrow, Tuesday, at 9/8c.

(Photo courtesy of the CW.)

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