Tales from the Cultural Wilderness - Journal

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2005-09-26 Entry: "New Season - Supernatural"

Wow! Positively the creepiest pilot I've seen in a long time, Supernatural kicks off with a bang. It's a much darker show than I was expecting - the death of the mother and girlfriend are rather more disturbing than I'm used to from the WB. And even the A story with the Woman In White has some creepy scenes (the scene towards the end with the two children taking their revenge was seriously nasty).

Of course, we've also got the ongoing thread of what happened to their father to deal with, but the show is going to live or die on the success of their monster-of-the-week format. And after a successful first episode, there's a not so successful second, with a wendigo stalking people in a forest. They need to stick to more human monsters, as when we finally get a shot of the creature, it's seriously weak. Up until that point it was pretty good however. I presume in future weeks we can also expect the "it's a creature - no, it's a human monster" episode, where the heroes go in guns blazing but have to back off and leave it to the feds to deal with.

If anything, this feels a bit like a Millennium retread - it's as dark as some of the episodes of that show, although with the mystical element ramped up, and we've yet to see any real mythology for the show - are we in a relatively Christian mythology with a few creepy critters lurking in the darkness, or are they taking a generally agnostic view of the supernatural along the Buffy lines?

Jensen Ackles is good here, much darker than we last saw him in Dark Angel, and much more like his first season Ben character than the lighthearted Alec he played in season 2. But Jason Padalecki still has to grow on me - he hasn't been very good so far, even considering the fact he had to carry most of the pilot on his shoulders.

It's a WB show, so it hasn't got to pull in huge ratings to survive, but it's up against House on Fox, Amazing Race on CBS, and Commander-In-Chief on ABC, while NBC are hoping their comedies will provide some variety. ABC's show will probably die a swift death, especially with the star pull of Geena Davis pushing up the budget, and Supernatural does fit with the WB's general mystical theme, but I'm not sure the Gilmore Girls is a good lead in for such a dark show.

So my general feelings - too dark, and it'll struggle, but I expect the WB to stick with it. They've pretty much bet the farm on this one and don't have anything in the wings to fill the slot, although they could bring forward one of their midseason dramas.

In other words, I'll need to reevaluate this one in six weeks or so to see how it holds up. It'll almost certainly be around until Christmas, but I'm not sure how long it can survive beyond that. Will it remain dark and scare off many viewers, or will it end up degenerating into supernatural parody and retread ground covered by Charmed? Or can it find a fresh take on this subject matter?

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