"Be careful what you watch."
That's the warning issued by Cult, CW's latest genre drama that taps directly into the fanboy generation. The series, a long-gestating project from Rockne O'Bannon (Farscape), imagines "what happens when a TV fan's passion becomes an obsession," says network chief Mark Pedowitz.
Cult, due Feb. 19 (Tuesdays at 9 ET/PT), concerns a show-within-the-show, also called Cult, about a charismatic killer (Prison Break's Robert Knepper). Its rabid, social media-savvy fan base, begins to mimic events in the show, and one paranoid viewer disappears. His brother (Matt Davis, The Vampire Diaries), an investigative journalist, realizes the fears are real and seeks to uncover the mystery behind it.
If this all sounds confusing, it is, and even the actors touting it to TV critics Sunday were flummoxed when asked to explain it, with references to the "inside" show depicted in the series and the "outside" actual TV show that will air.
"We're aware we have a complex multi-faceted show going on," O'Bannon says. "The idea is we're actually presenting two shows at once," he says. CW will promote the fake show as a way to sell the real one, and viewers will see story arcs of both to follow, and potentially, obsess over themselves.
The idea is meant to tap into "the relationship people have to (genre) shows, which is more pronounced than ever before," says executive producer Len Goldstein. "We're looking at asking questions about the relationship of television to society," he says, "but they're more questions than answers."