Farscape creator Rockne S. O'Bannon is having a bit of a long-awaited resurgence. Syfy has picked up his post-apocalyptic frontier drama Defiance, starring Grant Bowler. And The CW has revived his 2005 pilot Cult, which was originally going to be a show on predecessor network The WB before it was killed in the WB/UPN merger.
Cult, on its face, doesn't appear to be science fiction and fantasy — it's a show about a cult TV series, which is also called Cult. And the hook is that there's a "rash of disappearances and a likely murder," and it appears that rabid fans of the series are recreating crimes seen on the show. A young production assistant on the show, Chloe, joins forces with a blogger/journalist named Jeff to investigate. (In the 2005 pilot, Jeff is the brother of one of the people who's disappeared.)
We've seen the 2005 pilot script, and the mysteries on Cult seem to go a lot deeper than it looks at first. The tagline of the fictional show is "TV that reaches through the screen," and the fictional show appears to have an ARG, or viral marketing campaign, that reaches way further than most. Fans of the show receive weird black boxes, just like the ones seen on the show, containing discs which install stuff onto your computer, and force you to play games that get more and more complicated. Meanwhile, as you play more games, you discover more clues. (But if you get too many clues, you disappear.)
Meanwhile, the show itself is full of bizarre clues, that the hard-core fans endlessly decipher. (Bear in mind, O'Bannon wrote this original pilot at the height of Lost-mania. There's even a mysterious, clue-filled plane crash.)
The fictional show Cult is about an actual cult, whose leader, Archie Sweet, is "a cross between Charles Manson and Hannibal Lecter," whose agenda remains opaque. And the fictional show's creator is a recluse, whom nobody sees, even on the show's staff. The show's own writers don't know what's going to happen next, until they receive the next batch of pages from the creator, Steven Rae.
Oh, and there's a mysterious Observer-esque figure, a bald man in a suit, who appears in the background of one scene — and the pilot script says he'll appear in the background of every scene, until he becomes a major character in episode nine.
I'm willing to bet that O'Bannon has changed this script a lot since 2005 — in particular, the veiled references to Lost's popularity and endless clues are probably gone, or changed somewhat. What probably hasn't changed, though, is the exploration — drawn from O'Bannon's own experiences with Farscape — of how a show's fans interact with, and shape, their obsession. Whether or not Cult becomes overtly science fiction, it'll almost certainly be a Gibson-esque look at media-saturated culture and our futuristic, interactive media-space. [Variety and Deadline, thanks WatchingPreacher!]