[07/21/05 - 12:00 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "Supernatural" (The WB)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

With the official start of the 2005-06 season less than two months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at two of the 47 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.

There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entries:

(Tuesdays at 9:00/8:00c this fall)

The network's description: "The WB has a long tradition of interweaving character dramas and the world of the supernatural. It began with �Buffy the Vampire Slayer� and continues with hits like �Smallville� and �Charmed. � This fall, The WB will take viewers on a completely new kind of thrill ride; a journey into the dark world of the unexplained that will deliver the terror of films like �The Ring� and �The Grudge. � Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki, �Gilmore Girls�) has done his best to escape his family's eerie history, but, along with his older brother Dean (Jensen Ackles, �Smallville�), Sam is bound by tragedy and blood to a dangerous, other-worldly mission. Criss-crossing the mysterious back roads of the country in their `67 Chevy Impala, the Winchester brothers search for their missing father � and hunt down every evil supernatural force they encounter along the way. "

What did they leave out: That's pretty much it.

The plot in a nutshell: 20 years have passed since a mysterious figure claimed the life of Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam Winchester's (Jared Padalecki) mother and destroyed their Kansas home. In the time that's passed their father has launched a crusade to find who or what was responsible, facing off against all sorts of "supernatural" threats along the way. Both Dean and Sam were trained to follow in their father's footsteps however it seems Sam has opted to try and build a normal life in recent years, heading off to Stanford, settling down with a girl and working to become a lawyer. But when their father goes missing for longer than usual, Dean shows up on Sam's doorstep (along with his '67 Chevy Impala, filled with all sorts of "hunting" tools) asking for his help in tracking him down. Reluctant at first, Sam agrees to tag along but has to be back in a few days for his law school interview. From here we enter "The X-Files"-type territory as it seems their father was investigating a "woman in white," a local legend about the ghost of a betrayed girl who murders unfaithful men. The pair then retrace their dad's footsteps (not to mention try to keep a low-profile from the local authorities) where they quickly find they work well together as a team with Sam being the smart, nice and soulful one and Dean being the headstrong, smartass and tough one. It's best not to spoil much more than that, other than their search for their father (and their mother's killer) is far from over.

What works: The series has a simple, lean mythology that comes across as surprisingly refreshing. Sam and Dean don't waste time asking "what is that?" or "did you see that?" as any typical horror movie would have them, they simply analyze what they see and try to find a way to stop it. That proactive style brings a new life and attitude to the genre and it most definitely clicks. Ackles and Padalecki also do great work here, playing their most likeable characters to date. There's a definite sense of brotherhood between them and it's clear both will be able to carry the show in spite of being the only main characters.

What doesn't: The weakest part of the show is the main "case" - the aforementioned "woman in white." She/it's really not that scary or altogether interesting. And after the new show sparkle dies in terms of the characters, the show will quickly live and die by how interesting the case is each week. After all we're talking about watching two guys criss-cross the country, week after week, season after season doing the same thing. Sure they'll be the "arc" that drives them but in the end the strength of the cases (and the writing) will sustain the show. I do have high hopes however.

The challenges ahead: Is this really the next (insert cult-classic WB show here) as the network's PR would have you believe? Does the show have enough ideas to sustain such a "procedural" take on the supernatural genre? We'll find out this fall on The WB.

  [july 2005]  


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