Today, I tackle yet another TV show that managed to find its way into my DVD collection. A bunch of you probably heard about Supernatural already. For the others: Supernatural is a light horror show following Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester as they hunt things that go bump in the night and save the world from the apocalypse.
In a way, it’s a darker Buffy The Vampire Slayer with two brothers instead of a girl, and situations and humor targeting a more mature audience.
But most of all, it’s candy.
Yes, there’s a definite eye candy factor (see the picture below) – I’m not going to pretend mysterious hazel-greenish eyes, chiselled jaws and muscles have no effect on me. But, as a writer, the candy I’m talking about is the sheer entertainment value of the script.
Note: I’m going to give quite a few examples in this article but I swear there are no significant spoilers; most of them, you could read in an episode’s blurb and the others are gnat in the grand scheme of things.
Supernatural falls into the “monster of the week” genre which oftentimes gets redundant and bland, though a few key ingredients are commonly used to avoid that.
It has an overarching plot spawning across a season and it includes plot twists and all. It has tension, crisis, meaningful and interesting character arcs, and blah blah blah.
It has all the things other good shows have but what charmed me – and what caused the blandness to fade to dust, never to be heard from again – is what it has that others have in very little quantity or don’t have at all.
Within the Story
Characters of sci-fi/fantasy/supernatural shows go back in time or forward in the future pretty often. They get into awkward funny and/or dramatic situations because of it, or a spell or whatever. Supernatural has played with such plotlines as well.
But gosh, have the writers pushed them!
Ever wondered what Supernatural would be like if it was a sitcom? They did it within an episode.
What if they meshed it with Groundhog Day and added a touch of Looney Tunes deaths for balance? They dropped a piano on Dean’s head after killing him a few times to reset the day. They even sprinkled a “Wicked Witch of the West” flavor by traveling from Dean’s legs sticking out from under the piano to Sam’s desperate face.
They had the main characters realize their life story was written in a series of books and had them attend a convention with a bunch of fans cosplaying them.
It’s all justified within the storyline, of course. Like Joss Whedon did with Once More With Feelings. But on a regular basis.
With the Fourth Wall
One of the episodes of season 4 is about a shapeshifter obsessed with old horror B-movie villains; the whole episode is a black and white B-movie-ish experiment. They just ripped the color from the film and tweaked the lines so they would sound a bit cheesier than usual and voilà! The characters are oblivious to the change but we aren’t.
Paris Hilton as the bad pagan god haunting a house of wax? Check.
Live Free or Twihard as an episode title? Why not?
Smaller stuff too, like a tour at a movie studio with the guide saying to the tourists they might catch a Gilmore Girls star while we, the audience, are looking at a close-up of Jared Padalecki (who played in that series).
They even literally broke the Fourth Wall (or should I say “window”) by throwing Sam and Dean through it and landing them in a “parallel universe” where they are Jared and Jensen, actors for a show called Supernatural.
With the Audience
All the examples above have something in common; we, the audience, are part of the game. We see jokes the characters will never be aware of. But the writers know that we know that they put them there for us, that they glazed a good show with a little extra sweetness.
Like a little “Thank you for being our loyal audience. Thank you for paying attention.”
Obviously, I want to pay attention even more. Why wouldn’t I? The whole thing is sheer fun anyway!
As a writer, I’m amazed by the latitude the team behind Supernatural has. They do things not only for the sake of telling a good story but for the sake of entertaining the audience. And whoever the ultimate bosses are, they let the writers do the crazy things that have become a trademark of the show.
Thank you for that!
I’m not ashamed to admit I have regular episodes of “Oh my gosh! They didn’t! *giggles*” while watching that series.
If I could sit in any writer room (even just as a ghost), I’d sit in Supernatural’s. It feels like the writers are having fun and are constantly challenging themselves to push storytelling and entertainment further. I’d like to see them work.
Pure candy, I’m sure. 😉