In 15 Minutes Or Less, The A.V. Club looks at the best in web series and short-form TV, recommending entry points that will take up no more than a quarter-hour of your time.
Los Angeles-based web-video collective Working Fish excels in grafting high-concept premises to tried-and-true TV formats. The group’s first effort, Mermates, drops a half-man, half-fish into a “mismatched roommate” setup; its follow-up, The Common Cult, is like Friends if all of the friends were bonded by their involvement in a Lovecraftian dark religion in addition to relationships that reach back to adolescence. On that foundation, the first season of The Common Cult builds a keenly observed, expertly edited chronicle of the way our pasts define the people we grow up to be—and how hard it can be to extricate yourself from that past when it involves bringing an ancient evil to our plane of existence.
Keywords: Whedonesque, dark comedy, “I’ll be there for Cthulhu”
Where to start: The series’ first season is so tightly choreographed (and so brief: it’s only six episodes, none of which cross the seven-minute mark) that there’s no reason to skip a chapter. Start with episode one, in which The Circle Of Five, The Wheel In The Darkness must recruit a new member to avoid becoming a circle of four. The episode’s cold open also provides the first glimpse at The Common Cult’s flair with a jump cut, as the show hilariously flashes through the lead-up to and aftermath of a ritual sacrifice in a way that deftly works around the production’s small scale and Kickstarted budget. Warning: There will be (fake) blood.
Where to watch: Catch the entire first season in this YouTube playlist. According to writer-producer-editor Michael Jonathan Smith, the cast will soon sit down for a table-read of prequel minisodes that illustrate how Leon, Rachel, Casey, and Donald began dabbling in the dark arts. After that, it’s on to season two, in which Smith and company will answer the question, “What happens when you’ve summoned an Old God and he needs a place to crash?”