Surprisingly, there were three new cult-related dramas that premiered on TV this mid-season: Fox’s The Following, which I’m liking more and more (though they need to stop with the double-cross reveal every episode because it’s getting ridiculous — not everyone can be a cult member!); ABC’s obviously doomed from the start Da Vinci Code knockoff Zero Hour, which was unceremoniously canceled after three episodes; and The CW’s Cult.

I watched the first episode of Cult because I thought it had an intriguing concept: a story-within-a-story about a TV show called “Cult” and the mysterious, dangerous, and maybe even supernatural cult that grows around it in “real life.” Spoiler alert: I didn’t make it past the first commercial break. What greeted me in those first (and thankfully last, at least for me) twenty minutes was a mishmash of ingredients stolen from other, better programs that were probably mentioned in the initial pitch: there’s a credit sequence that might as well have been lifted straight from American Horror Story (“Horror is hot right now!”), a segment of the TV show within the show that was clearly aping Criminal Minds and, probably coincidentally, The Following itself (“Everyone loves procedurals about serial killers!”); and front-loaded mysteries they’re obviously hoping the audience will latch onto and try to decipher on message boards (“Hey, you guys, remember Lost?”). Combine all that with cardboard characters who do nothing but vomit exposition all over each other, and I was reaching for the remote during the first commercial break before those wall-mounted fish at the vacation lodge could even start singing about McDonald’s new Fish McBites for the millionth time.

Cult is what happens when a studio tries to force a program to have an obsessive cult following instead of letting it happen organically. It’s like some loser trying to get a girl he likes after she’s broken up with her boyfriend by acting just like the boyfriend. It’s the studio saying, “Hey, remember when you got all obsessed with Lost and went on message boards and had viewing parties where you spent an hour after the show trying to figure everything out? Please do that with our show, too!” Your only consolation? Cult won’t be long for this world. Expect it to join Zero Hour in canceled TV hell sooner rather than later.

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