Box Watch: The Cult

Having ethnically disparaged The Cult, sight unseen, along strictly racial lines*, the inhabitants of Fortress Mamea have watched the first two eps.

For me, the greatest sin of any homegrown show is try-hard self-consciousness – and thankfully, there’s none here whatsoever**. It looks and sounds like a real TV show, rather than something we should watch out of patriotism. The direction and cinematography are uniformly flashy. The characters are clearly delineated. The plotting is pacey and the dialogue largely on point with only occasional excursions into exposition.

But I’m not feeling for any of the characters. Why am I not caring for:

  • a father who wants his sons back at any cost (and, so far, without much thought)?
  • a bitchy sister who keeps needling her brother’s wife-with-a-shameful-history?
  • or the brothers inside the compound, in too deep and with seemingly nowhere to run?

And what’s the deal with the mercenary hired by the outside group? If he’s really an ex-SAS soldier, he’s being awfully reticent and docile. A character with a skill set like his is a game changer: the rules of engagement may differ (it’s not a warzone so killing people isn’t a good idea) but the game is the same – if your objective is to get certain people out of a compound, then you do everything and anything to achieve that objective. Instead, he’s rolled on and off screen like a prop, as and when the story dictates.

Ep three screens tomorrow, and The Goddess has given me the hard word: If this doesn’t get any better, you’re on your own.

Oh dear.

POSTSCRIPT: OMFG – The Cult‘s section on the TVNZ website has a writers blog where creator Peter Cox shows some of the development process that went into the show.

* When I posted that, I couldn’t help flashing on this joker from the underrated Undercover Brother.

** No surprise, really: creator Peter Cox was behind both the near-perfect The Insiders Guide to Happiness and the excellent but abysmally scheduled The Pretender.


O Brother Where Art Thou

The latest Herald Time Out had a write up about an upcoming homemade drama, The Cult. Besides my usual grizzling about the complete lack of any mention of writers, something struck me about the large cast: where are the brothers or sisters?

Here’s a screen-grab:

Okay, there’s maybe a sister at the far right, peering around a tree but this is New Zild drama, right? And if they’re gonna namedrop Lost, I believe that show has:

  • two black guys,
  • a Korean couple,
  • an Indian guy,
  • a couple of Hispanics,
  • and an Australian.

Here’s a quick run-down of the Mamea Household’s Box Watch-list:

  • Law & Order now has three black detectives;
  • Dexter and The Closer each have a black cop, a Hispanic cop, and an Asian technician (Dexter) or cop (Closer);
  • Battlestar Galactica has a Hispanic leader, an Asian pilot and a black bad cylon;
  • The Wire‘s ethnicity is slanted towards blacks;
  • Better Off Ted has a black scientist;
  • Dead Like Me has a Hispanic reaper;
  • Fringe has a black supervisor;
  • Law & Order UK has a black lawyer;
  • Desperate Housewives has a Hispanic couple.

Meanwhile, if The Cult‘s publicity shot is anything to go by, its cast has:

  • no brothers, and
  • maybe a sister

– but since she’s hugging a tree maybe she’s the comic relief – or the first one to die.

If this is ‘New Zealand on air’, I don’t recognise it.