Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thank You, McG

I can’t believe I that headline. Seriously. First of all, the guy goes by the first three letters of his middle name. Is there anything more pretentious and douchey? Second…well, that’s really my main beef with the guy.

But I’m thanking him for giving us the wonder that is Supernatural. I have watched, I do watch, and I will probably always watch a lot of TV. There are a handful of shows that I will always love and will always watch, new or in reruns. Friends, Babylon 5, The Office, Arrested Development, Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel, just to name a few. Two of those, Buffy and Angel, are 12 seasons of mostly perfect excellence. I was saddened when the shows were cancelled (especially Angel, which ended with a near-perfect season of awesomeness). Angel ended in the spring of 2004, but in the fall of 2005, a most worthy successor began its first season. Prodcuer McG and creator Eric Kripke gave us Supernatural.

The story is about two brothers who travel the country seeking out and destroying all sorts of ghosts, ghouls, monsters and demons. The show began somewhat generically. It was your typical monster-of-the-week deal with your random teen slasher/horror riff thrown in. If you look at similar shows (to help bolster my argument, let’s use the first season of Buffy and Smallville) and ignore any season-long main plot or arc that might be floating through the episodes, that first season is very formulaic. With Buffy, it was a monster-of-the-week formula. With Smallville, it was a kryptonite villain-of-the-week. Supernatural wasn’t any different in that respect. What did make it different, at least from Smallville, not so much Buffy, was the caliber of the writing and the acting. Smallville was crap. The acting was stiff and the writing was mediocre at best. And it hurts me a little to say that, what with my love of comics and all.

What kept me coming back to this show was what keeps me coming back to any Joss Whedon show, to almost anything written by Aaron Sorkin, Arrested Development, Castle, etc. It’s the dialogue, the interaction between the characters. No matter how fanciful the stories are, the characters seem real. And that’s a testament to both the actors and the writing. How can you tell it’s a team effort? Go find the 4th season of Smallville. Jensen Ackles plays Smallville High’s football coach (Jason Teague) and Lana Lang’s new boyfriend. Man, did he suck. His character sucked, his storyline sucked, and his acting pretty much sucked. Teague’s story ended with that season, and Ackles reappeared as Dean Winchester in Supernatural. All of a sudden he’s awesome. Was it an acting miracle? Nah, I blame the writing. He went from crap writing to awesome writing, and now Jensen IS Dean.

The other big draw for me is that this show weaves the comedy effortlessly into the drama and the horror. The one-liners, the facial expressions, the episodes based on wishing wells, Internet ghost hunters and Supernatural fan fiction, they all seem so natural and go hand-in-hand with hell hounds, demonic diseases and Satan himself. It lets up on the doom and gloom long enough for you to catch your breath so you’re ready for the next onslaught of mayhem.

One thing Buffy and Angel did that I always considered somewhat of a cheat was staying away from the religious aspects of what was going on. You’re fighting demons and creatures from hell. In Buffy, hell wasn’t just one place. You had an infinite number of hell dimensions. And from the 6th season of the show, you can assume that there were an infinite number of heaven dimensions. Like I said, it felt like a bit of a cheat. But Supernatural has one Hell and one Heaven, and yeah, they’re the ones that begin with capital h’s. It’s Good vs. Evil, not A good vs. AN evil. And these brothers are caught up right in the middle of it. There’s an immediacy to each season’s major plot, a finality. I got behind Buffy and Angel when there was the threat of at least one apocalypse each season, but this show is working towards the big one: Armageddon.

I don’t normally think about TV shows this much. I like them, and I tend to remember episodes and stuff, but it really takes a special kind of show to really make me think about WHY I like it. And then to try and convey that to you? Yeah, I like this show. It’s damn good. I know it’s hard to get into a show that’s already so deep into its mythology, but having past seasons on DVD make it extremely easy to catch up on things, provided you’ve got the time to watch them. Netflix makes it even easier so you don’t have to go out a drop $40-$60 on a set (although the first 3 season are on Amazon for $15 each. That’s pretty hard to beat.).

So please consider this long-winded rant as my recommendation. If you’re looking for something to occupy some of your time, you can do a LOT worse than checking out this show.

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