Angepinnt Supernatural - news around 200th Episode

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    • Supernatural - news around 200th Episode

      For most of the history of television, the barrier to syndication—and to profitability—has been 100 episodes. The shows that have made it to that mark are an unusual group. Many were big hits. Some found small cult audiences. Still others just hung on as best they could and never posted numbers quite low enough to be canceled. In 100 Episodes, we examine the shows that made it to that number, considering both how they advanced and reflected the medium and what contributed to their popularity. This entry covers Supernatural, which began its 10th season earlier this month.

      The first question most people ask when they hear I reviewed the last season of Supernatural for The A.V. Club is, “Really?” The second is, “Wait, hasn’t that show been on for, like, ever?” Yet if someone’s only impression of the show is from ad campaigns or the occasional glimpse of competitive brooding, both questions become somewhat reasonable. Who talks about Supernatural now? And who would have guessed it would still be a relative success for The CW in its 10th season, as it approaches the 200-episode mark?

      Probably no one would have guessed it when Sam and Dean Winchester first appeared on The WB in 2005, just a year before the network merged with UPN to form The CW. The history of those two upstarts and their eventual, embittered union is fascinating, but Supernatural doesn’t play much of a part in it—the show barely gets a mention in Season Finale, Susanne Daniels and Cynthia Littleton’s book about the period. Daniels references Supernatural solely as a minor, late-in-the-game hit for The WB, which needed all the eyeballs it could get to stay afloat at the time. (Past the glory days of Buffy and Angel, the closest thing ratings-wise to Supernatural on The Frog was the last season of Charmed.) It was the only new show to survive The WB’s catastrophic 2005-2006 season, which saw everything else either unceremoniously axed (Just Legal) or boxed out for the new CW lineup (Related).

      In fact, Supernatural’s longevity has come from sticking around as an afterthought. The show has never been a phenomenon; its Nielsen ratings have hovered at or slightly above an otherwise pathetic 1.0 for practically the entire run. But those numbers have been consistent over several time slots, as Supernatural moved from Tuesdays to Thursdays during season one (where it remained until season six), to Fridays, to Wednesdays, and back to the original Tuesday. The reliability of the Supernatural audience over that time is impressive given both the way fans have been asked to follow the show around the week and the almost-collapse of most other broadcast programming over the course of the last decade. (It helps that it airs on The CW, where that consistent 1.0 makes Supernatural one of the highest-rated shows for the network.) Supernatural may not be doing something revolutionary, but it’s hard to deny that it’s doing something right.

      When asked by the uninitiated, I describe that something as, “The X-Files if most episodes were like the funny ones and with two hot dudes instead of one hot dude and Gillian Anderson.” (That’s a little reductive, but it does hint at the show’s appeal.) Though The X-Files ended years ago, that show’s spooky cultural mark was still relatively fresh when Supernatural was conceived by showrunner Eric Kripke. And 2004 saw a boom in filmed action horror, including the original Saw, The Grudge, and the blockbuster movie that might have most clearly presaged Supernatural—Van Helsing. But where The X-Files used aliens as the motivating force of its universe, Kripke conceived of Supernatural as primarily focusing on urban legends. Many earlier episodes play as toned-down versions of familiar scenarios, designed to spook in style: Hook Man, Bloody Mary, and lots and lots of ghosts.

      Kripke’s original focus also calls to mind one of the other shows often referenced as a Supernatural forebear: Route 66. Because every town has its own monster, the brothers would have to travel the country to go on frequent hunting trips. Supernatural has never been a show anyone would point to as an example of cutting-edge TV, but, especially in the earlier seasons, it did a fantastic job of capturing the thrill of the open road (and of soundtracking it, with the show’s now-characteristic use of what Sam deems “mullet rock”). That’s helped Supernatural maintain a significant presence as a show set in America (or, at least, the version of America conjured by the image of two dudes from Kansas drinking, driving, and killing things). That includes a whole host of new mythological iconography, from the all-powerful Colt pistol that can kill almost anything in the universe, to Dean’s prized ’67 Chevy Impala, perhaps the third-most important character on the show for the first few years.

      All of those elements, and many of their specific manifestations, are more or less present from the pilot on. Sam and Dean run scams for cash, pretend to be federal law enforcement (with terrible fake names), and drive around a bunch, hunting monsters. (There’s even a nod to The X-Files when Dean refers to real FBI agents as Mulder and Scully.) And through all of its homages to the imagery of classic horror—big, scary fires, low-lit corridors, flickering televisions—the pilot never loses its focus on Sam and Dean. That’s because when it stops being about the monsters, Supernatural is all about shared trauma and the way it bonds the Winchesters, even when they would prefer it didn’t. The first episode opens with the death of their mother and ends with the death of Sam’s fiancée, precipitating the initial, uneasy dynamic between the brothers and the search for their father, John. This far removed from that initial episode, it’s sometimes hard to gauge how much of those first few seasons was devoted to filling in unpleasant gaps in Winchester family history that had been implied by the pilot. Keeping the brothers unhappy was the only way to keep the engine of the show hot.

      That engine wouldn’t run smoothly without the right actors, though, so it’s almost impossible to overstate how important the casting of the Winchesters was to the initial and continued success of the show. Jared Padalecki was a no-brainer for The WB, coming off his role in Gilmore Girls, and Jensen Ackles had starred for a season on James Cameron’s Dark Angel, which showcased his smarminess and gift for delivering one-liners. That reel highlights one of the key weapons in Supernatural’s arsenal, particularly for people unfamiliar with the show—Ackles’ comic ability and willingness to do pretty much anything in service the character with the same level of ridiculous enthusiasm, a skill that works equally well with guilt and pratfalls. As with any good buddy-cop show, Supernatural depended, and continues to depend, on the rapport between Padalecki and Ackles. They’re people forced to be around each other, even when they don’t get along, combining the two big sitcom tentpoles: family and the workplace. At the height of its capabilities, Supernatural manages to make the drama of hunting monsters double as sibling conflict.

      Horror, road movies, family drama, workplace sitcom—these are just a few of the genres run through Supernatural’s blender. In any given episode, the visual language of horror usually gives way to the coats and (fake) badges of police procedurals, which gives way to sibling bickering, which gives way to a straight-up action climax. The secret of Supernatural’s success is its ability to blend those genres without letting the seams show. When done successfully, it’s a formula for a show with—if not a particularly large tent—at least one with a decent variety of acts.

      The blending of those disparate elements is particularly evident in the show’s best episode, “Mystery Spot,” which uses its Groundhog Day conceit (the same day resets every time Dean dies around a local “mystery spot,” forcing Sam to race to save his brother) for both deeply comic and dramatic effect. Supernatural’s focus on the Winchesters gets far more out of a low-stakes standalone episode than most other shows might in the same situation, especially for fans who are already invested in Sam and Dean’s relationship. Some reasonably inspired retconning even allowed the episode to be integrated into the broader mythology of the series as it turned toward the Judeo-Christian in its best seasons, the fourth and fifth.

      That expansion of the mythology (which Kripke described in the first season as “just find dad”) found its primary manifestation in Castiel, the dorky angel played by Misha Collins in a dirty trench coat. Caught between his growing affinity for the Winchesters (as well as for humanity) and the robotic obedience demanded of most angels, Collins was a huge boon to the show, breathing new life into the Winchester dynamic by giving Dean a buddy without really threatening the sibling relationship the way female characters often seemed to. (The show’s treatment of women is a subject for a separate essay. For a while there, Supernatural was seemed incapable of introducing a female character without Dean calling her a bitch.) Eventually, Cas got a demonic counterpart in Crowley, who Mark Sheppard has managed to imbue with deep levels of smarm as well as a surprising amount of affection for Dean—he’s a pit bull incapable of actually attacking. Both Sheppard and Collins are regulars for the current 10th season, and the idea of these otherworldly characters being trapped by their relationships with these annoying humans conjures up Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens.

      That’s a particularly apt comparison for seasons three through five, which were increasingly taken over by angelic and demonic forces battling over the end of the world and leaving Sam and Dean caught in the middle. Where another series might have put the Winchesters squarely on the side of the angels, their rebellion against the uptight, callous heavenly forces was one of the biggest symbols of the show’s overriding moral pluckiness. As much as Supernatural excelled at standalone episodes in its early seasons, it became clear over time that the show was telling a single, extended story about the Winchesters and their role in the apocalypse, about the power of a sibling relationship over everything in heaven and hell, culminating in the season-five finale, “Swan Song,” which isn’t so much a masterpiece as it is a blunt instrument, cornily but effectively ending the show’s first act in the only way it could, drawing on all of the genres that had contributed to its success in the first place. But where could Supernatural go from there?

      Though Kripke’s original plan was for a five-season arc, one that took the show to a seemingly natural conclusion, it’s beginning to look like more than half of the show will be made after the creater/showrunner’s departure. That’s too bad, because the recent seasons are heavily characterized by narrative flailing, endless repetition of the same story and character beats, and uninspired antagonists. The collapse of the series’ mythology creates some interesting territory—what happens to the cosmic order of the universe, to the millions of angels and demons and everything in between, when the apocalypse has come and gone?—but that’s been only partially explored. The show has managed to push back against this inevitable aging by upping the importance of its rotating supporting characters/pre-murder victims, and the idea of a larger ensemble is a breath of fresh air for anyone sick of the 17th version of the “brothers split up” plot line.

      The inevitability of those separations, and the repeating variations on one brother feeling guilty about something or one brother sacrificing himself for the other, indicates the biggest albatross at the beginning of the 10th season: Winchester angst. Sam and/or Dean is always lying to Dean and/or Sam, and one of them always seems to want to get out of the hunting game yet just can’t leave the life behind. This tension has been baked into the show from its pilot, but the basic emotional beats here are so well established that continuing to play them out once the show ran its natural course has run everything into the ground a bit, depleting the emotional battery. In fact, the later seasons of Supernatural are suffering from a similar problem as, say, the last couple of years of Parks And Recreation, where the initial conflict that drove the series petered out as everyone became super close and happy. It’s still fun to hang out with the characters, but they’re probably not going anywhere we haven’t seen many times before.

      The repetition that comes with Supernatural’s old age has also led the show to lean into its tendency to poke fun of itself through increasingly reflexive, meta stories. Anecdotal evidence suggests this is maybe the most surprising thing about the show for those whose superficial impression of it is all doom and gloom, but some of the Supernatural’s best ridiculous episodes have bent and broken its relationship with its own fictional universe, particularly through the introduction of Chuck, a prophet whose gospels are trashy novels about the Winchesters. Chuck’s work gave the show an opportunity to stick its tongue deeply in its own cheek and comment on its occasionally rabid fan base (and the legions of people writing Wincest fanfic). But this trend reached its apex in “The French Mistake,” in which Sam and Dean are transported to an alternate reality in which they’re bratty actors named Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles making a television show that is, uh, kind of past its prime. Since then, the holes have gotten too big for the show to really ask to be taken seriously: The upcoming 200th episode is going to be set at a Supernatural fan convention.

      Pushing on the genre balance that made it so compelling originally has led Supernatural to transition from scary to almost cheesy, coasting on its own fumes. That happens to pretty much any show that runs long enough, yet it hasn’t really mattered to the show’s continued success. Though it receives far less critical attention in its golden years, Supernatural’s ratings haven’t dropped as much as one might expect. Where Parks And Recreation resolved its characters’ conflicts and became toothless in the process, Supernatural suggests that the Winchesters will never be totally free—so why care? But like the comfortable dynamics of the characters on a long-running sitcom, it seems to be enough for a lot of fans to watch Sam and Dean reenact the same beats, transformed largely into creatures of fan service. The basic formula is sturdy enough to maintain a few more seasons yet, especially if Ackles and Padalecki are game (they seem to be) and the rest of The CW’s programming fails to take off to a degree that would make keeping Supernatural around unnecessary (it mostly has).

      The CW’s attempt to capitalize on Supernatural’s continued presence culminated in a backdoor pilot last season, the poorly thought-out “Bloodlines.” Unsurprisingly, the idea for a Supernatural spin-off had been kicking around for years, but it finally manifested itself in “Bloodlines,” which was trying to be The Originals for Supernatural. But the Chicago of “Bloodlines,” where competing mob families of monsters squabble over territory, putting a cop-turned-hunter in the midst, was overly serious and pretty lame. None of the cast really popped (and none of them ever seemed in on the joke), there were no real scares or plausible emotional connections, and the whole thing was silly in a bad way. Watching “Bloodlines” made it clear how precarious Supernatural always was—as much as people might ask in surprise whether it’s still on (and whether it’s worthy of critical attention), the fact that it managed to maintain that reputation so long with such a consistent audience is damned impressive. It just goes to show how much successful supernatural storytelling comes down to chemistry.

    • *thumps* Danke fürs posten AIC.
      Schön, das das was Supernatural ausmacht, auch mal Schreiberlingen auffällt, die sonst nichts mit dem SPN Fandom zu tun haben. Ich denke mal für uns Fans bringt der Artikel nicht wirklich etwas neues, oder? Das Supernatural ohne Jensen und Jared nicht so funktionieren würde, das ist wohl jedem klar.
      Die ständigen Referenzen auf die Popkultur insbsondere Serien und Filme aus den Mysterygenre, die teilweise schon lange vor Supernatural liefen, zeigen nur wie sehr sich diese Werke doch mittlerweile etabliert haben, und Teil der Kultur geworden sind.

      Anderseits sieht man aber auch deutlich, wie wichtig es ist, nicht nur plump etwas aus einem anderen Werk zu "leihen" sondern nur die Grundidee zu nehmen und einen auf die neue Serie zugeschnittenen Spin zu verleihen.
      Um "Mystery Spot" zu nehmen: Klar es erinnert an "Groundhog Day" wenn man den Film kennt. Aber man muß den Film nicht zwingend kennen "Mystery Spot" übernimmt das Konzept nicht 1:1 sondern passt die Idee auf Supernatural an. Und das ist die Kunst sich von anderen Werken inspirieren zu lassen, aber doch etwas eigenens zu schaffen, das sowohl den Erwartungen derer gerecht wird, die das Original kennen, aber auch für die schlüssig ist, die das zitierte Werk nicht kennen, sondern dann in der Diskussion mit anderen darauf stoßen, das es eine "Vorlage" gab.
      Somit führt die vermeintliche Kopie letztlich zum Original, und der Kreis schließt sich.

      Für eine Show, die niemand (der Entscheider wirklich) haben wollte, und die jahrelang darum bangen mußte verlängert zu werden, ist das doch etwas wovon andere Shows die gehätschelt und getäschelt werden, in ihren Aussagen aber nur wage und belibig angepasst an den "Mainstream" bleiben, nur träumen können.
      "A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.LLAP"
      “Don’t you dare think there is anything, past or present, that I would put in front of you.”

      *rose* Sig by angelinchains
    • Ich finde den Artikel auch prima, hatte ihn bereits heute früh gelesen. Bei allem Positiven hat man aber auch die negativen Effekte einer so lange laufenden Serie nicht verschwiegen, die auch für uns 'alte' Fans nicht unbemerkt bleiben können - die Wiederholung desselben Themas, derselben Bruder-Probleme, desselben Schemas. Aber in einer so schnell wechselnden TV-Landschaft die Fans so lange binden zu können, ist schon etwas Besonderes und noch unterhält SPN besser als der Großteil der restlichen Shows und konkurriert erfolgreich mit viel frischeren und besser budgetierten Serien des Genres, das Supernatural selbst mit etabliert und salonfähig gemacht hat. Ich bin sicher, dass die Fantasy-Welt ohne SPN sehr viel ärmer an interessanten, inspirierten Shows wäre...

      What the hell?! I mean, normal people, they see a monster, and they run. But not us, no, no, no, we -- we search out things that want to kill us. Yeah? Huh?
      Or eat us! You know who does that? Crazy people! We...are insane!
    • Ich formuliere es jetzt mal bewußt überspitzt, jede Serie die die erste Staffel überlebt, wiederholt sich. *;)* Das ist weder vermeidbar, noch will das im Prinzip jemand wirklich verhindern, denn wenn man wirklich ehrlich ist, bedeutet Serie eben wiederholung, weil es *kreisen um das Grundkonzept ist". Ansonsten gäbe es einen Film und fertig.

      Supernatural ist da keine Ausnahme, aber die Autoren schaffen es mehrheitlich zumindest, immer noch diese Wiederholungen interessant genug zu gestalten, das einen als Zuschauer die "neu verkleidete" Wiederholung immer noch vor den Fernseher lockt. Das ist für eine Serie in der 10. Staffel nicht selbstverständlich, andere Produzenten kaufen billigere Autoren ein, die wirklich nur alte Staffeln abkupfern, und das auf die plumpeste Art, und dann wundert man sich warum die Zuschauer nicht mehr einschalten.

      In der Hinsicht hat Supernatural bis jetzt ziemliches Glück gehabt, was hoffentlich weiter anhält. *seufz*
      "A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.LLAP"
      “Don’t you dare think there is anything, past or present, that I would put in front of you.”

      *rose* Sig by angelinchains
    • Ich finde den Artikel sehr gut!

      Vielleicht seh ich es ja zu rosarot, aber wenn eine Serie lange gut läuft und eine treue Fangemeinde um sich scharren kann, braucht es ein klein wenig mehr als ein gutes Budget, ein fähiges Konzept, und das vorrangige Ziel, Geld mit einer weiteren Mainstream kompatiblen Serie zu verdienen. Klar muss eine Serie finanziell erfolgreich sein, ich glaube aber, wenn man sein „Baby“ liebt, versucht man die bestmöglichen Mitarbeiter dafür zu finden. (eben nicht die billigsten Autoren, sondern Menschen, die mit der Idee der Show etwas anfangen können) Um eine Serie so lange gut am Leben zu erhalten, gehört meiner Meinung nach schon eine Passion für die Arbeit dazu. Und den Willen, die Serie auf einen Niveau zu halten.

      Für mich ist Dr.Who/Sherlock dazu eigentlich das Beste Beispiel. Die Macher dieser Serie sind selbst Fans und mit Herz und Hirn und all ihrer kreativen Begeisterung an dem Projekt dran.

      Die Wiederholung des Grundthemas einer Serie ist doch irgendwie das worum es in einer Serie geht. Die Helden sind auf einer Quest und solange diese nicht erfüllt ist, geht die Geschichte weiter. Ist doch im Leben ganz oft auch so, wie oft erleben wir ähnliche Situationen immer wieder, so lange, bis eine Lösung eines Problems gefunden wurde. Das ist eigentlich das Thema jeder erfolgreichen Geschichte in unzähligen Varianten.
    • Supernatural: The Cast and Creators Looks Back on Making 200 Episodes and Ponder the Future

      It’s incredibly rare for a TV series to last ten seasons, but Supernatural has done just that and is now set to air its milestone 200th episode this coming Tuesday.

      Many of Supernatural’s cast and creators, past and present, recently gathered in Vancouver, where the show films, to celebrate the 200th episode. At the event, I spoke to them about the show’s success, its fans and more, including just how much longer the show could go past Season 10.

      Reflecting on Reaching Episode 200

      Eric Kripke (Series Creator/Executive Producer/Showrunner - Season 1-5): I was shocked that we got to 22 episodes, so never could I have dreamt that we got to 200. Early in the show, we were fighting every season to stay on the air. Every single season, I started in the writers’ room saying, "Guys, this is the last season. Let’s smoke 'em if we got ‘em!" Eventually they started to call bulls**t on me. I was so sure we were going to get cancelled. Maybe, in my wildest dreams, I thought we would get to the fifth season, but to get to double that and to still be going strong and to be one of the biggest performers on the network, I can’t get my head around that. I’m just proud of it and humbled by it. It’s amazing to me. I’m proud of Sera [Gamble] and I’m proud of Jeremy [Carver] because each one took the format of the show and then made it their own.

      Jared Padalecki (“Sam Winchester”): It’s really f**king bizarre. It’s cool. It’s a really rad situation. As you remember, our early years were rocky. We were on the WB and then WB got kind of disbanded into CW and there was a new boss and there was a new channel and there were different actors and actresses and there were different kind of chefs in the kitchen. We were like, “Oh s**t…” We were afraid we’d get lost in the shuffle. But we made it past that and we were like, “Oh, thank God” But then there were road bumps at the beginning of the journey. And now, here we are where I feel like we’re stronger than ever. I really do. And I hate when people say that – “Hey, this is better than ever!” -- that kind of wink-wink, one eyebrow douche stuff, but I just truly feel like Mark Sheppard as Crowley and Misha Collins as Castiel and Felicia Day as Charlie and Jensen Ackles as Dean and [Laughs] Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester really understand their characters and the writers really understand the characters. It’s this weird kind of symbiotic relationships between the writers and actors and the writers and actors and fans where we all get each other and now it’s not the first 15 minutes of a school dance anymore. It’s the end fun part where we’re all just having a fun time; where it’s like, “Hey, this is that song we’ll all get along to.” Not like, “Hey, what do you like?” “I don’t know, what do you like? Well, what does she like?” We’re all on this journey together.

      Jensen Ackles (“Dean Winchester”): I still don’t even know what’s happening. Everybody’s like “200!” and I’m like, “Is it? Oh yeah, we did do 200. Gosh, I felt like we were just at 100!” Jared and I have this saying… We didn’t come up with it, but it’s, “Success is what happens when you’re too busy working to pay attention.” I feel like he and I have been too busy, just head down, cranking out the episodes, working with our crew, taking the material the writers give us, making it come to life. Then all of a sudden it’s like, oh, we’re at episode 209! It’s like, “What happened? Well listen, we can’t stop and smell the roses because episode 210, episode 211, episode 212 are on deck, so keep moving, pal.” We ain’t got time. We can smell the roses when the show’s done.

      Jeremy Carver (Writer – Season 3-5/Showrunner – Season 8-Present): I think we’re all sort of… Our heads are down trying to tell the best episodes we can and now we’ve looked up 200 episodes later and it’s sort of ridiculous but earned I think and I don’t think it’s been a lot of padding. It’s consistently good, which I think we’re all very proud of.

      Misha Collins (“Castiel” – Season 4-Present): When I joined the show, I thought I was going to get three episodes out of it and then when it evolved into six and then nine and a season and two seasons and every iteration of that was astonishing to me. When we were at the 100 episode party, I thought, “Wow, it’s amazing to be a part of something that’s lasted this long” And when we were at the 100 episode party, I’m sure someone on the red carpet said, “Maybe we’ll see you at the 200!” And I’m sure at the time we were like, “Whatever, f**k head. We’ll be gone long before we get to 200!” And lo and behold, here we are. So I don’t think any of us expected this but I think we’re all very happy to be here.