Cancelled midseaosn CW drama Cult will return on the air June 28, with the six unaired episodes slated to run in two-hour blocks from 8-10 PM over three consecutive Fridays. The show’s creator Rockne S. O’Bannon shared …
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
The new CW drama Cult that premieres February 19 surrounds what happens when the mysterious disappearance of the brother of an investigative journalist leads to a journey into the dark underbelly of a TV series and its rabid, obsessive fan base. So the first question from a critic on a TCA panel this morning asked maybe whether there was a danger in looking at passionate television fans and telling them “your passion scares me and I’m afraid you might kill me.” Exec producer and showrunner Rockne S. O’Bannon admitted that the production team is very cognizant of this issue. “But unlike other shows, we have the advantage of putting a magnifying glass on that idea itself,” he reasoned. The natural followup query is whether there is indeed a certain cause-and-effect between TV and movie content and certain behaviors from impressionable fans. Exec producer Len Goldstein explained that Cult is absolutely peering at the relationship between fans and their shows, “which is certainly more pronounced than ever before…
In my decade covering American television I can’t think of a year when more projects that started as also-rans, or came back from the dead, or barely made it to pilot, or overcame major recastings, went on to land series orders. And some of them are among next season’s most buzzed-about new shows. It feels like almost all pilots that had recastings — once an ominous sigh for a project’s future — went to series, and those that went through hardship on average fared much better than their non-problematic counterparts.
When a pilot script is passed on by the network that developed it, in 99.99% of the cases that means the end of the road, with the script headed to the writer’s drawer as its final destination. But in the case of Mindy Kaling’s medical comedy The Mindy Project, a pass by NBC where it was developed led to a pilot pickup at Fox, where the project quickly emerged as the network brass’ darling and landed on the fall schedule in the plum post-New Girl time slot.
Like rejected scripts, dead pilots also hardly get resurrected. Sci-fi veteran Rockne S. O’Bannon wrote Cult for the 2005-06 development season when he landed a pilot order at the WB but the project became a casualty of the UPN/WB merger and the pilot was never made. Six years later, O’Bannon’s updated Cult script got a pilot order at the CW, the pilot was shot and took another step forward, landing a midseason series order.
It took Will & Grace creators David Kohan and Max Mutchick about as long to get a comedy inspired by their real-life straight man-gay man friendship on the air. The idea’s first incarnation was at CBS during the 2006-07 development season and the second at ABC the following season. Both times, Kohan and Mutchick’s scripts went to pilot starring Jay Mohr and Brian Austin Green (CBS) and Alan Tudyk, Josh Cooke and Ty Burrell (ABC). Both times Kohan and Mutchnick felt there were script, casting and other issues. The two had moved on when last year CBS approached them about revisiting the idea but getting it right this time. The result is Partners, which also went to pilot.
The CW has made five new drama series pickups, with all early standouts making the cut. That includes the Sex And The City prequel The Carrie Diaries, the Green Arrow-themed Arrow, the contemporary reboot of the 1980s series Beauty and the Beast, mystery Cult and medical drama First Cut starring Mamie Gummer.
Picking up five new scripted series is a record for the CW which, under new topper Mark Pedowitz, has vowed to increase the amount of originals on the air at any time, avoiding long spells of repeats. The CW also has been planning to employ the cable model of shorter seasons with some of its series, including Cult, which had been envisioned from the get-go as doing 13 episodes a season. There had been speculation that the CW would pick up as many as 5-6 of its eight pilots to series. The sixth drama pilot that had been in serious contention but did not get a nod today was the book adaptation The Selection whose chances were boosted by its similarities to the blockbuster Hunger Games movie franchise. Were those similarities too close for comfort?
The large number of new series pickups does not bode well for the CW many bubble series but a couple, like Hart of Dixie, Gossip Girl and maybe Nikita, would likely make the cut. Studio-wise, three of the five new CW series, Carrie Diaries, Arrow and Cult, hail from Warner Bros. TV, the other two from CBS TV Studios. Two of the series are co-produced by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage’s WBTV-based Fake Empire, while Arrow is with Berlanti Prods.