I know, I know, I usually don’t write about television shows. But I think it bears mentioning that this week’s theatrical release “Drive Angry 3D” ( a film all but destined for the bargain bin) bears a lot in common with the cult CW show “Supernatural.” Both feature heavy amounts of strange guns, muscle cars, rock-n-roll attitude, and of course, the supernatural. So I figured I would connect the dots for those of you who haven’t seen this show, which has been solid for the last five seasons (though the jury is still out on the sixth.)
Now, I suspect your eyes might be glassing over at the very mention of the CW. The network is largely associated with “America’s Top Model,” “Smallville,” prime-time soap operas, and very often, all three at once. “Supernatural” is fortunately none of these things, but it doesn’t help that CW treats the show like its red-haired step-child, thanks in no small part to minimal advertising overplaying the show’s horror roots. Instead, it’s the show’s character which contributes more to its success than laughs or scares, though both elements remain thankfully abundant.
After their mother dies in a mysterious fire, Sam and Dean Winchester spend their childhood on the road with their grizzled ex-Marine father John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) hunting the supernatural force responsible. Twenty-two years later, Sam (Jared Padalecki) is a law school student trying to keep out of the paranormal, until his older brother, Dean (Jensen Ackles), informs him their father is missing. The two reunite to pick up the trail on the culprit behind their mother’s death – the sinister Yellow-Eyed Demon (Frederic Lehne). From here, the story launches into a six season blast which leads from the search for their father to the End of Days, and if that weren’t enough, the Mother of All Monsters.
Monster hunters are certainly nothing new. Whether it’s Blade or Carl Kolchak, we’ve seen plenty of monster-hunting bad boys in our time. What makes “Supernatural” so unique is small-town, blue-collar roots which give the show an American Gothic twist. These guys aren’t funded by the government. They don’t have special gadgets or federal resources. All they have is whatever they can fit into the back of a ’69 Impala. Don’t expect a Bat-cave either, as the brothers camp out in whatever low rent hotel they can find. Remember the EMF devices everyone from the Ghostbusters to the Ghost Hunters use? At one point, Sam asks why their EMF looks like it was made from a busted-up CD player. “That’s because it is,” Dean replies proudly. It’s low-tech twists like this which make the show so darn original.
A typical season usually hinges on one big problem, whether it’s a missing father, a Faustian pact or an impending Apocalypse. The show moves on this plot with all the momentum of its famed Impala, and even the stand-alone episodes reference the show’s ever-expanding mythology. But this is something of a double-edged sword. While it allows the characters to grow and develop in every episode, it also produces a few episodes where not a darn thing happens. With the Winchesters often faced with impending doom, this uneven mix of incredibly dynamic characters and a sluggish plot can be a sore point from season to season.
Still, “Supernatural” remains one of the most vastly underrated TV shows on the air right now. By treating folklore like the gospel truth and throwing in a liberal dose of classic hard rock, the show does for the paranormal what “CSI” did for the police procedural. The result is a much needed kick the teeth for both the horror genre and prime-time television – and a result no fan of the bargain bin should miss.
Pick up Season One of Supernatural for $22.48 shipped at Best Buy.