I am no stranger to television obsession. How do you think I got this gig? But CW’s new series Cult takes obsession to a whole new level.
Cult is a show-within-a-show. Matt Davis stars as Jeff, a one-time reporter for the Washington Post whose fall from grace (he was fired after blatantly lying in an article that sent six corrupt cops to prison) lands him in Los Angeles. His troubled younger brother, Nate, calls him in a panic, convinced that someone is following him and something horrible is going to happen to him. Sure enough, Jeff gets a strange call from Nate that ends abruptly. He goes to investigate and discovers Nate is missing, and there is an enormous amount of fresh blood pooled in his desk chair.
When the detectives seem happy to explain Nate’s disappearance as a drug deal gone wrong, Jeff takes it upon himself to investigate. His brother was part of a group that is obsessed with a TV show called “Cult,” about a man named Billy Grimm who runs a hippy-dippy cult in the desert and the former cult member whose sister and nephew have gone missing. Joined by Skye, a researcher on “Cult,” Jeff discovers that life imitates art when Nate’s disappearance ties very, very directly into the fictitious TV show.
Cult sounds like it could be too meta, but it’s not - at least so far. It is the kind of show that is difficult to explain but pretty easy to follow. For the most part, “Cult” remains in the TV, but there are hints that it might bleed into “real” life. Some people have voiced concerns that casual viewers might be easily confused by the show-within-a-show format, but I think that audiences are far more sophisticated nowadays.
Cult is a fascinating premise that I cannot recall ever having been done on television before. It blends elements of a conspiracy mystery, behind-the-scenes drama, and a hint of something possibly supernatural. I feel like the show has a lot of room to grow; a lot of places it can go; a lot of stories to uncover.
Cult premieres February 19th on the CW.