Why you should be watching Supernatural, and thoughts on why you might not be.
By Alexander B. Huls
If you’re reading this and wondering: “What the heck is Supernatural?”, then you”ve come to the right place and also broken my heart.
Supernatural revolves around two brothers, Dean and Sam Winchester, who are nomadic demon hunters that ride from town to town in order to investigate and vanquish supernatural evil. And who doesn’t love nomadic demon hunters? In each episode the brothers grapple with a monster-of-the-week (much like early The X-Files), often inspired by urban legends and folk tales. Not content to settle for a tired formula, Supernatural introduces a greater dramatic mythology dealing with a Winchester-hating über-demon with a very nefarious plan for both the brothers and the world. And who doesn’t love nefarious plans?
While Supernatural is a spiritual successor to The X-Files, unlike that show, it succeeds in fusing its horror-movie-a-week concept with its compelling and well-developed mythology and larger dramatic arcs. The writers of The X-Files had no idea where they were going, but Supernatural not only seems to have a clear narrative direction, it finds the proper balance between teasing you enough that you’re still intrigued, but also telling you enough so that you don’t get frustrated. Unlike Lost.
The chemistry between the Winchester boys is one of the highlights of the show, as it draws rich dramatic conflict from Sam and Dean’s different personalities and perspectives. In fact, the show is overall very accomplished dramatically, finding ways to intersect its various elements (horror, family drama, etc.) so that they work well together. For example, sometimes the monsters with which the Winchester boys deal with one week are really a backdrop in which a greater personal conflict is explored. Finally, the show has a distinct and dark sense of humor that is able to both mock itself and the conventions it adheres to, while providing the appropriate sardonic wit and comic relief to prevent the show from becoming too serious, and keep it fun.
By all accounts, Supernatural should be a success, since it features elements that should appeal to multiple demographics. It’s got two young hunky stars that would appeal to teeny-boppers and middle-aged women. It’s got fraternal male bonding, manly action, a sweet ride and wicked classic rock tones that would please any guy’s guy.
With the incredible resurgence of horror films, you would think the show’s horror premise would draw the interest of those who flock to see The Ring VII. The show also features fantastic guest appearances by actors from other popular and cult shows: Julie Benz (Buffy/Angel/Dexter), Amy Acker (Angel), Amber Benson (Buffy), Linda Blair (The Exorcist), Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica), Katharine Isabella (Ginger Snaps), and Nicki Aycox (Veronica Mars), just to name a few. Which brings me to my next point: these are all hot women, clearly appealing to any man with a pulse. So why is no one watching Supernatural? It’s on the CW, which has to be a big hurdle. This is a network whose nightly average ranges from anywhere between 1.5 million to 4 million, depending on the night. The CW also unfortunately chooses to air Supernatural on Thursdays opposite rating juggernauts CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Grey’s Anatomy, which each average about 20 million viewers. Supernatural’s draw? Only 3 million.
Another problem is that dark supernatural shows generally don’t do well. Apparently audiences are only willing to accept soft takes on the supernatural, like Ghost Whisperer and Medium. The last darkly themed supernatural show that did well was, yup, you guessed it: The X-Files. Shows that are too witty, too dark, or too challenging (or all of the above) generally fall by the wayside. Think: Joan of Arcadia, Point Pleasant, Wonderfalls, Millennium, Harsh Realms, The Twilight Zone. Even critical and fan favorites like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel never really lit up the Nielsen Charts. Somehow peoples’ interest in the supernatural (or science-fiction, for that matter) does not seem to transfer from film to the television screen. Maybe TV really is only the land of crime procedurals and medical dramas, with no room for anything else. People have become accustomed to expecting only these genres from television, and as a result, are only interested in those genres.
As you might have realized by now, I don’t have any definite answers to my own question. All I have is a pressing desire, and hope, that more will watch Supernatural, because they are missing one of the best and most fun TV shows on the air. If I get even just one million more people watching this show because of this article, I will be pleased as punch. So start making me some punch. Supernatural punch.