Cult television  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Cult television, like cult figures, cult film and cult radio, attracts a band of aficionados or appreciators, known as a cult following, devoted to a specific television series or fictional universe.

Although some cult TV series are longer-lasting science fiction, fantasy, comedy or horror shows such as 24,Charmed, Farscape, Doctor Who, Animaniacs, Xena: Warrior Princess, Star Trek, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Invader Zim, Stargate SG-1, Dragonball Z, LOST, Heroes, Supernatural, The Venture Bros., Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Boondocks (TV series) , Robot Chicken, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Roswell, The Outer Limits,The Twilight Zone, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Futurama, Code Monkeys, The 4400, seaQuest DSV, The X-Files, Red Dwarf, Scrubs, Angel, Full Metal Alchemist, Code Geass, Bleach, InuYasha, Naruto, The Simpsons and Primeval, many pilots, short-lived shows and limited series such as Freakazoid!, Megas XLR, Carnivàle, Veronica Mars, American Gothic, Count Duckula, Stella (TV series), My So-Called Life, Samurai Jack, Arrested Development, Fawlty Towers, The Paul Daniels Magic Show, Invader Zim, Fastlane, Firefly, Lookwell, Twin Peaks, FLCL, Twitch City, Dark Skies, Millennium, Spaced, TV Funhouse, Strangers with Candy, Pushing Daisies, Weeds, The Crow: Stairway to Heaven, Mr. Show with Bob and David, Freaks and Geeks, Invasion, Clerks, Jericho (TV series), The Mighty Boosh, Greg The Bunny, Mission Hill, Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Death Note, ReBoot, Home Movies (TV Series), Rocko's Modern Life and Cardcaptors have also developed strong followings. A "cult" show can also be from the genres of drama, action adventure, animation, comedy, and children's series.

Some cult shows are considered "underground" such as the hard to find show The Sleep of Reason which has only a web presence as a guide or "Wolf Lake" which runs sporadically on the Sci-Fi Channel

What exactly makes something a "cult" is widely debated. Some popular and strongly interconnected definitions are:

  1. A genre, covering all series that play with widely held beliefs and perceptions. This covers most shows in genres like science fiction, fantasy fiction, horror fiction and some forms of sitcom (especially most forms of British comedy). Most adult animation series (like much anime) are included.
  2. Any series that has a strong loyal audience that thinks a lot about the show, especially the world in which it is set. Such shows generally have a much higher than average level of intensity. Most such programmes are of the "cult" genre. This interest and support by fans is seen by some as being similar to religions and cults, hence the term. An example of this is Monty Python's Flying Circus. This may also include quoting the show in question as an inside joke amongst its followers.
  3. Any fictional series made for television that encourages its viewers to do more than just sit and watch it. This can be in the form of interacting, debating and partying with other fans, either via conventions or online communities, or through activities such as writing series-related fiction, costume creation, replica prop and model building, or creating their own audio or video productions based around the formats and characters. This is the definition of choice of Cult TV, a group of appreciators who are also the owners of the Registered Trademark "Cult TV" in the UK.
  4. Any series that has achieved a moderate level of popularity, but not a large one. This is what is usually meant when a series is said to have "achieved cult status". Even if a group of people agree on this definition of "cult status", arguments on a show's status within this type are common as the "moderate" band has two highly subjective borders. Arrested Development or Quigley's Village, are an example of this.
  5. Any unpopular or obscure series. This definition encompasses the fourth one, but also includes shows with only a small level of popularity, but are usually critically acclaimed and have devoted following. This definition is also used by those conferring "cult status". It is easier to reach consensus on this definition than the other because only one subjective boundary is involved. Examples include Firefly, Mission Hill, The Oblongs, and The Prisoner, though Firefly's development of a substantial fanbase subsequent to its cancellation (and the feature film release that followed) suggests it is no longer unpopular or obscure.

Many series that some people found strongly compelling were not hits in their original runs, and quite a few well-loved shows had only a season (or less) worth of material.


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cult television" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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