Supernatural (The WB, Tuesdays 9/8c p.m.)
Premise: Two brothers reluctantly inherit the family business of tracking down and dispatching evil supernatural beings.
The glut of reality programming that network executives made television audiences suffer through over the past few years appears to be over. The successful rise of the once-moribund ABC network during the 2004-2005 season on the fanciful and speculative fictional heels of Lost and Desperate Housewives, has other networks seeing a potential goldmine in scripted, fictional TV shows.
Imagine, viewers actually like a good story, fully fleshed characters, witty dialogue and grand story arcs. Baffled execs once again see a future in hour-long fiction. (And there was much rejoicing around the world.)
Fast-forward to fall of 2005 where NBC, CBS and The WB each have debuted a TV show based on premises that only a few months earlier would never have found a home outside of the Sci Fi Channel.
Not to sit on its laurels and gloat, ABC brought forth two new speculative fiction offerings of its own. So fans of science fiction, horror and fantasy have the rare opportunity this year of having a choice of new offerings on broadcast television with a handful of new shows.
Of the five new science fiction and/or fantasy-themed dramas debuting on network TV this season, two stand out: ABC’s Invasion, because it is lucky enough to get the ratings bonanza timeslot after Lost, and The WB’s Supernatural, the subject of this review.
Family hunting trips
The premise of Supernatural is focused on two young 20-something men who inherit their father’s avocation of hunting down and saving innocent bystanders from the wrath of supernatural evil. The two main characters are played by actors who are familiar faces on The WB. Younger brother “Sam Winchester” is played by Jared Padalecki, a standout from previous seasons of Gilmore Girls (The hit WB show which directly precedes Supernatural, and probably why Padalecki gets top billing). The older brother, “Dean Winchester,” is played by Jensen Ackles who is better known as “Jason Teague” on last year’s run of Smallville.
(Side Comment: Where is the pod The WB keeps to grow such astonishingly attractive people? Like most WB hour-long programs, the yummy factor of this cast alone is enough to attract many women [and quite a few men] to the show.)
Supernatural is executive produced by a man who calls himself, “McG,” a three letter name in desperate need of a vowel. McG is a former music video director (they still make those? I haven’t seen one on MTV for years.) turned 35-year-old producer/director and Hollywood flavor of the month. He successfully translated the 1970s TV show Charlie’s Angels to the big screen – twice – and developed the Fox network teen soap opera, The O.C.
But in a weird combination of style becoming substance, somehow the mixture of two pretty-boy B-list actors and the vowelless-named producer have teamed up to create a very entertaining series. The show successfully combines the buddy-road-picture formula with the monster-of-the-week formula that was last successfully used by Joss Whedon’s Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (as well as other series such as X-Files, Star Trek, etc.).
The WB is no stranger to the concept that is Supernatural; it already has a successful-but-aging show about gorgeous siblings vanquishing evil to save innocent lives; a show created by a man whose previous success was a teen soap opera on Fox. Does this pattern remind anyone else of Aaron Spelling’s Charmed besides me?
The two shows have other similarities with the writers’ infusion of witty banter and not-so-special special effects. Methinks The WB has finally found the show to succeed Charmed on Sunday nights next year. And that would not be a bad thing.
That is due to the glaring major difference between Supernatural and Charmed; Supernatural is fresh, interesting and not reliant upon scripted gimmicks to keep its audience entertained. We haven’t explored Supernatural‘s Winchester family quite as deeply (or repeatedly) as the family of the elder program. Supernatural also has a darker tone, a product of its post 9-11 heritage. Its evil McG brings us is scary and deadly in an ugly way, not the tired wink-nudge campiness of Charmed.
At its best, Supernatural provides genuine thrills and spooky chills; at its worst it is still better than 70 percent of the rest of what is on TV right now.
Some adult themes and violence.