In this week's roundup of what's worth seeing (and what's not), another killer cult, Dana Delany in Body of Proof, marijuana dealers, and a sweet animated comedy.
Premieres Tuesday at 8 p.m. on The CW
Oddly enough, this is the second show to premiere in less than a month about a murderous cult. But unlike Fox’s The Following (where Kevin Bacon tracks an Edgar Allan Poe-obsessed killer), this thriller, created by Farscape’s Rockne S. O’Bannon and helmed with the production gloss of Josh Schwartz (The O.C., Gossip Girl), has the good sense to aspire to be awesomely bad.
Like in Schwartz’s previous shows and the best episodes of Community, Cult is obsessively, self-effacingly meta: a harried journalist (Matthew Davis, master wincer) is in pursuit of his brother, who went missing after becoming involved with the rabid fan base of a TV show... about a murderous cult.
The show within the show, also called Cult (the layers of potential viewer-deterring confusion here is impressive), has the grey color palette and "Sturm und Drang" of a cable cop show, with its female lead (Alona Tal) and serpentine cult leader (Robert Knepper). And oddly, it's more compelling than the actual show.
Or maybe that’s the point? The premiere is a goofy, giddy ride resembling the kind of hyper-referential bombast that made Scream such a thrill: There are silly set pieces (Davis’ journalist character actually dons 3D glasses to uncover a clue), clunky exposition (Jessica Lucas also stars as an overeager production assistant) and a feeling that the show doesn’t quite understand what it wants to do yet. It’s a wreck, the I-can’t-look-away kind. A — Aleksander Chan
Body of Proof
Season premiere Tuesday at 9 p.m. on ABC
What is it about bland procedurals that attracts powerhouse actors like Dana Delany? Because it always looks like they’re having the time of their lives in these limited, chewing gum roles; each one you pop is the same as the last.
In the two-part premiere, Delany’s Megan Hunt, a Philadelphia medical examiner who’s as surly as she is skilled, is dispatched to investigate the cut up bodies of dead veterans, discovered in a gross, maggot-y mass grave in an abandoned warehouse. (One day, when all the abandoned warehouses have been murder sites, cop shows will have to find somewhere else to dump bodies.)
But the crimes have always been beside the point. In a world where Bones has almost been on the air for 10 years, its all about crackling chemistry between the leads that gets us through.
Better late than never, Body of Proof enters season three with a casting overhaul: Megan’s old partner played by Nicholas Bishop is out, and Mark Valley as a former flame and new detective is in. The duo’s chemistry isn’t electric, but there’s something to his sliminess and her headstrong grandstanding that plays like a trope from a TV show on autopilot. If you like that sort of thing. C+ — AC
Premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Discovery
Remember when all The Discovery Channel showed was nature documentaries narrated by British dudes and Shark Week? Nowadays, judging by the network’s programming slate, all that seems worth discovering are the lives of rugged, outdoors-y men: gold miners, Yukon hunter-trappers, moonshine bootleggers and the “Amish mafia” — whatever that is.
In the vein of recent docudrama-style reality hits like A+E’s Duck Dynasty and History’s Pawn Stars, Discovery has built yet another show around the tough guys doing tough things theme, this time set in the glamorous world of Northern California’s marijuana industry.
Weed Country follows those on both sides of the weed wars in the “Emerald Triangle,” a three-county stretch of California infamous for its prolific cannabis output. While small-time farmers and scientists looking to produce ever more powerful strains of the plant stake their claim to their land and their crop, local police and SWAT teams conduct raids and flyover searches in effort to eradicate illegal pot sales.
Judging by the series’ first hour, Weed Country’s sympathies lie firmly with the pot farmers. While the big bad SWAT teams run training raids decked out in full armor and packing serious firepower, humble farmers deliver their product to ailing patients in need of some herbal relief, including a small boy who suffers from epilepsy. (That the farmers might also cater to other, more recreationally-minded customers is barely alluded to.)
Like its rough-and-tumble predecessors, Weed Country’s tired format, stiff talking-head interviews and stagey conflicts suck the life out of its potentially interesting subject matter. C — Katie Stroh
Premieres Friday at 9:30 p.m. on IFC
For those who prefer animated shows packed with maximum quirk, Out There occupies that sweet spot between the delicious crassness of South Park and the outright silliness of Adventure Time.
Sweeter and cleaner than South Park (which Out There creator and voice actor Ryan Quincy worked on as an animation director and producer), the show nevertheless treads very similar ground as its predecessors. Chad (Quincy) and Chris (Justin Roiland) are two 15-year-old disaffected outcasts in a nowhere town, and their newly-forged friendship rests on their mutual awkwardness and insecurities about the weirdness that is growing up.
The show’s major strength lies in its voice talent; the cast is filled with fantastically talented actors, including Fred Armisen (SNL, Portlandia), Linda Cardinelli (Freaks and Geeks), Megan Mullally (Will and Grace, Party Down) and Pamela Adlon (King of the Hill, Louie), all of whom make the show’s quietly clever writing and goofy animation a delight to watch.
Although Out There isn’t quite (yet) a joke-laden laugh riot in the way of contemporaries like Bob’s Burgers or Archer, it’s immediately charming and worthy of attention from any fan of animated comedy. B+ —KS
Also on this week:
Bear Gryll’s Wild Adventures
Series premiere Tuesday at 8 p.m. on BBC America. The affable British survivalist survives more outlandish outdoor ordeals.
Parks and Recreation
Airs at 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. on NBC. A back-to-back, one-hour episode. The one where Leslie (Amy Poehler) and Ben (Adam Scott) get married.
For What It’s Worth
Premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. on VH1. Antiques Roadshow for pop culture obsessives.
Live from the Red Carpet: The 2013 Academy Awards
Airs Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on E!. Because there’s no other, better way to gawk at all the clothes in real time.
The 85th Annual Academy Awards
Airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on ABC. The Oscars. Everyone who’s anyone will be there. Go Jennifer Lawrence!