Rockne S. O’Bannon knows a thing or two about obsessive fans. After all, his groundbreaking series Farscape was brought back from the dead by a Star Trek style fan protest. Who better, then, to tackle the very current and intriguing issue of a rabid fan base blurring the line between fantasy and reality in The CW series Cult.
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The highminded premise of Cult follows the tricky and complicated show-within-a-show format. A new show, called Cult, airs on The CW and inspires an over the top fan reaction who begin to emulate the grisly goings on of the show. The format is ambitious, the subject matter is borderline trailblazing. Sadly, however, the execution has fallen well short of what will be needed to pull off an idea like this.
After watching the pilot, I felt strongly like I had tuned in to a show at the beginning of Season 2 without getting caught up on any of the plotlines or characters ahead of time. Cult’s purposeful omission of any useful backstory appears to be strategic, so that it can fill the audience in a little bit at a time, but the practical effect is to drop the viewer off in the middle of a maze without even telling them it’s a maze. Moreover, none of the characters are written or performed strongly enough to be particularly memorable at this point, and the result is a confusing and not always logical plotline. The real life fan cult in Cult is seemingly limitless (like Joe Carroll’s following in The Following), but there is no connection for the viewer to make to heighten suspense or drama.
Cult leaves you feeling like you’re playing the test version of what’s going to be a very cool computer game, once they fix it. There are hints that the show may improve, and it has a good sense of humor about its subject matter, but I fear that its built in target audience won’t stick around for much longer if the quality of the show remains subpar.
ONCE UPON A two seasons ago, Body of Proof was a Dana Delany vehicle about a cantankerous House-like medical examiner (Delany) who was alienated from her preteen daughter (Mary Mouser), clashed often with her boss (Jeri Ryan) but frequently came up with a Quincy-like breakthrough to help the police solve the case of the week.
Fast forward to the recently minted season 3, and Body of Proof has undergone a huge facelift. Delany, Ryan and Mouser are still around, but the police part of the cast has been given a complete facelift, and the show has made a conscious decision to switch from a science/investigation focus to a more action-oriented one. The result is a medical examiner who inexplicably shows up at active crime scenes and gets put in harm’s way, the replacement of thoughtful, sometime humorous characters with stock action hero types, and a puzzling question about why ABC is keeping the show around at all if it was so intent on turning it into something completely different.
Delany, with new cast members Mark Valley & Elyes Gabel
My prediction is that Body of Proof will lose more viewers that liked the show the way it was than it will gain with its change to a new format. That’s especially true given the atrocious tone of the season opening two-parter, a very wrongheaded morality play about returning veterans. This show may be headed for the autopsy table.
One week after a lackluster launch, one obvious way to make The Jeselnik Offensive more funny is to have Patton Oswalt and Nick Kroll be the guests every week. Honestly, even I could have a funny show if those were my guests.
Reality Check: Heir-apparent to the old Battlebots, Syfy launched Robot Combat League this week. Unlike the aforementioned ‘bots, which were user-designed and built and fought in a remote control demolition derby-style contest, the Robot Combat League provides the robots to teams of paired up contestants consisting of techs, a collection of engineers with experience in robotics, and robot jockeys, an assortment of athletes, gamers and machine operators. If you’re expecting the robots to fly around the ring like in Real Steel, don’t get ahead of yourself. Instead, this is more like a very high-tech version of Rockem Sockem Robots, and the fight sequences were as interesting for their action as they were for watching the repairs between rounds, where we got a great look at what makes these robots work. Robot Combat League is smart and interesting and it’s definitely the only show of its kind. I had a lot of fun watching it, and I plan to stick with it.
Real Steel Reality: Robot Combat League
Best use of a pop song in a commercial this week: Taco Bell’s spanish language remix of Notorious B.I.G.’s Big Poppa. Just 30 seconds long, the snippet is absolutely infectious. Someone needs to record a full length version pronto.
Educational TV. Things we learned from watching TV this week: 1) Too Big To Fail is the rich man’s YOLO (The Daily Show); 2) The war on terror is 12 years old, which probably explains its preoccupation with remote control airplanes (The Colbert Report); 3) In Germany, it’s called Hogan’s Villains (Community).
Score one, make that several, for Jennifer Hudson. After her dominating, captivating Dreamgirls performance at the Oscars, Smash went with a very Hudson-themed episode, giving Jen the spotlight which, of course, she ran away with. Additional kudos to Smash for resurrecting a very old Billy Joel classic, Everybody Loves You Now. Never thought I’d hear that on a TV show.
The series premiere of Red Widow airs on ABC on March 3.
The season premiere of All Star Celebrity Apprentice airs on NBC on March 3.
Switched At Birth will air an episode performed completely in American Sign Language on ABC Family on March 4. Groundbreaking or gimmicky? Stay tuned.
The series premiere of World of Jenks airs on MTV on March 4.
The season finale of White Collar airs on USA on March 5.
Grimm is back on NBC on March 8.
TV’s a big place and I haven’t been to all of it yet. Got a favorite show you’d like me to comment on? Post a comment below, contact me on twitter @RobLazlo. or shoot me an email: [email protected]. I welcome your input!