The CW got in the pilot pickup game early this year with a green light for Cult, a mystery drama from veteran sci-fi writer producer Rockne S. O’Bannon produced by Gossip Girl co-creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage. This marks a happy ending for O’Bannon who first landed a pilot order for Cult six years ago at the WB but the project became a casualty of the UPN/WB merger into the CW. Written by Farscape creator O’Bannon, Cult was first developed during the CW’s maiden pilot season. It centers on an inquisitive, young female production assistant on a wildly popular television show called Cult who, after a rash of disappearances and a likely murder, joins a journalist blogger in investigating the rabid fans of the series who might be re-creating crimes seen on the program in real life. O’Bannon and Fake Empire’s Schwartz, Savage and Len Goldstein are executive producing for Warner Bros. TV. If picked up to series, Cult may air as a limited-run 13-episode per season, a model employed by the premium (and some basic) cable networks but rarely by the broadcast nets. Broadcast shows done that way include ABC’s hit Lost.
O’Bannon originally set up Cult at the CW predecessor the WB in 2005, also through WBTV. In that incarnation, the project centered around two brothers, one of whom is involved in the fan community of a fictional TV series called Cult. When he goes missing, his brother begins to investigate his disappearance and discovers that it may have something to do with the fandom of the show. Back then, O’Bannon said in an interview that the project was “based on my experiences with the Farscape fan community, obviously taken to an extreme.” “One of the aspects of Cult is the subculture that grows up around a television series, it’s kind of a show within a show.” The project got to a pilot stage, and White Collar star Matthew Bomer was cast as the lead but days later Warner Bros. and CBS announced the launch of the CW. Cult became the first major victim of the UPN-WB merger, as the pilot was scrapped a week after the announcement. WBTV remained high on the project, which was redeveloped at the CW and was set it up at ABC at one point before returning to the CW this season and making it full circle with a pilot pickup.
Cult marks the first pilot order for new CW president Mark Pedowitz. It represents a blend of the CW’s core brand of serialized dramas with young female protagonists and procedural elements. In addition to Cult, Schwartz and Savage have another project at the CW that is expected to get a pilot order, the Sex And The City offshoot The Carrie Diaries penned by Amy Harris.