Two of my favorite shows, "Psych" and "Chuck," recently infiltrated cults, calling for a cult head-to-head on all of the major attributes necessary for a TV cult on a comedy show. (Obviously dramas have different criteria for their cults, seeing as how they are far more likely to, you know, kill people in really unfunny ways.)
Any worthwhile comedic cult requires at least some outrageous level of comfort with the unclothed human body. On "Psych," Gus' new cult-member lady friend (she's nuts because that's how he likes them), apparently washing her too-dry-for-this-bit hair in a sink, is unstartled when Shawn and Gus find her in the kitchen, topless.
On "Chuck," Chuck and Sarah find the group they need to join doing calisthenics. Loud calisthenics. Loud naked calisthenics.
High Flying Pre-Cult Lives
In comedy, people don't leave their jobs at the local fast food joint to join cults, they leave lucrative jobs, often on Wall Street. In fact, the world of TV cults is so populated with former Wall Steeters, you're left wondering if the TV Occupy Wall Street movement has anything left to occupy.
"Psych's" use of the once-wealthy was integral to the plot, and helped to foster the cultiness of the cult setting, with people leaving high pressure for no pressure. For "Chuck," it seemed more like a nod to tradition or a cover, it was difficult to tell. And comedy shouldn't be difficult to tell.
Any successful cult, TV or otherwise, should offer an idyllic setting, one that makes you think, if even for a moment, huh, I wouldn't mind going there. What's wrong with a more peaceful way of life? I bet I'd like cultivating snap peas and grinding my own flour. What do you mean there's no TV? But we can still watch it over the Internet, right? Right??
"Chuck's" was leafy and green but riddled with security cameras, and not well-hidden ones at that. Considering it won the nudity head-to-head, it's not the best combination.
"Psych's" was the reason for the above reverie, with incredibly green rolling hills and kind, smiling people, and a quiet contentedness for all the residents … oh right, the no TV thing.
Creepy Cult Leaders with Something to Hide
What's a cult without a leader who's off, even if you can't put your finger on it? "Psych" had Brother Eli, creeptasically sincere and huggy. "Chuck's" cult leader was, unsurprisingly, some kind of topless-yoga-ninja-super-criminal (yawn, such a cliche). Guys probably liked her better, what with the topless. I preferred icky Eli.
Advantage: None; gender-line draw.
Best Cult-Related Line
"You walked into the wrong cult, b*#@!," said to Sarah by the for-the-moment clothed cult leader.
"So you guys aren't related to corn in any way shape or form?" Shawn, after arriving and remarking that they seemed to be in a corn-themed horror movie situation.
Best Special Guest/Cameo Highlight
No cult episode is complete without unexpected appearances by familiar faces. We had Diedrich Bader as the "Pysch" cult-leader Eli, played convincingly enough to suggest that he could have a second career, you know, if he got tired of the acting thing.
But "Chuck" had Danny Pudi and Yvette Nicole Brown from "Community." No contest here. And they weren't even in the cult. Still, it was such a great surprise that creativity outweighs the technicality, like on one of those reality "whip something up for the challenge" shows where someone doesn't follow the rules and still wins and everyone else grumbles for three episodes or until they're eliminated, whichever comes first.
Advantage: "Chuck." I mean, "Community."
Well, I hope you were keeping score because I certainly didn't. Besides, when it comes to TV comedic cults, there are no winners or losers, my friends, only drum circles.