Supernatural: The Success and Failure of Continuing Series
Type in ‘Supernatural fandom’ on Google images and you fall into the daisy chain of tumbler threads and perfectly timed GIFs. Supernatural has a reach far through every generation. Starting as a weekly adaption of ‘unmasking a murderer,’ Supernatural’s formula of Monster of the week gave a familiar attraction with a new feel. Other television adaption such as Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Vampire Diaries share the similar plot lines, family willing to cheat death and slay monsters while trying to save each other and protect the world. The Supernatural characters play a small part in changing the world but as we are focused on the Winchester’s realities, what they contribute draws one in. Supernatural has survived the ominous loom of cancellation a few times. Fans have come to fear the CW’s dreaded ‘Friday night death slot’ as shows headed for the hole air there. The fandom is where the heart of Supernatural beats. Supernatural, with the writers ability to produce and the actors’ performances, this show has the ability to evoke strong emotions in it’s dedicated viewers.
Packed with the appeal to the mysteries of lore and the myth busting trunk of arsenal, Sam and Dean are wrapped in myth but the actors live on in reality. Supernatural is not just a fangirls inspiration of characters to portray once a year at Halloween or comic con, the Winchesters live on at conventions up close and personal as Jared and Jensen. The Winchesters aren’t two characters but a cast of mythical misfits. like age appropriate phases; the Gothic teen, or dream deprived adult, most television shows are themed to appeal to the lovelorn or misunderstood, they’re temporary. Supernatural is timeless and unlike phases, Supernatural is boundless in appeal. To all the Wayward sons and daughters, the success of Supernatural is the powerhouse that fuels the need to explore what lies under the carpet. This article serves as a brief exploration into the writing, acting and appeal of Supernatural, as well as the comparison of a few current long running television series with 14+ seasons and how Supernatural has fared against the tide.
Team free will, founded in season four, consisting of Sam, the ex-blood junkie, Dean the dropout with six bucks to his name, and Castiel aka Mr. Comatose. Our misfit heroes have a running paradox of damsel of the season, with that being said, each season there lies an undercurrent of a Winchester in need of saving. Season 1 focused on finding John and ended with Dean as the first character to come back from the dead. Season one was the set up for the following seasons, we knew of Mary’s deal with yellow eyes and season 2 delved more into how Sam was affected by that. Dean was presented to us as the ever-willing soldier, willing to go out in the blaze of glory with bullets spraying and die a happy man if Sammy was safe. The plot lines can be summarized in the following sequence following season 1; Strange Sam and Dean’s promise to John (Season 2), An introduction to crossroads demons and finding the loophole to Dean’s deal (season 3). Angels, and Ruby and the Winchester love child Oh My! (season 4). The sacrificial Sam (season 5). Soulless Sam and…nipples? (season 6). Dick jokes, Bobby Croaks and Sam hallucinates in the loony bin (Season 7). There’s more but you get the picture, season 9 was Dean’s decent into darkness, season 10 was saving demon Dean and season 11 was Dean’s connection with the darkness. It’s not always Sam and Dean of course season 11 we were given a chance with Mary, season 7 we had broken Cas, who just hasn’t been the same since collecting honey with bees, and again in season 10 we lost our favorite redhead (Charlie; the nerds scream as we drop to our knees over dramatically) and gained a favorite redhead (Rowena the bad-ass witch). With the carver method of evil being ever forward, the Winchesters have succumbed and struggled against the challenges of the supernatural. With every season being a theme of saving a Winchester, sacrifices and slaying the monster.
The writers of Supernatural work under one (of many) critical rule…if it seems too easy we don’t want it. For thirteen years the show has worked in the efficacy of the writers to produce new challenges with every script. The rest of cast and crew adjust and recreate the challenge presented in a fresh way breaking the boundaries of the normal to bring shock and awe of the supernatural. We’ve come to notice the slight advancements of lore and how the brothers go about exorcisms; once they said Christo and boom! demon gone but that ended things rather quickly. Holding true to the rule, that was too easy and because we wanted the demons to give a bit more fight, in the entertaining fashion of let the hunters hunt, the brothers now tackle the demons head on while finessing their Latin skills. The writers of Supernatural are the engine, J2 are the drivers and the rest of cast and crew hold baby together. Supernatural isn’t just a show it’s a culmination of what goes into and the support behind a community. Eric Kripke held the reigns until swan song with Sera gamble as his predecessor leading into season 6.
In 2017’s Entertainment weekly’s Comic Con exclusive, Jared and Jensen mentioned the trust that goes between an actor’s performance and the writers views. Around the time of the pivotal season four, when the team began to explore new themes in religion, J2 were a bit skeptical to what the writers were delivered in into. As stated by Jensen, ‘we didn’t want to be used as the mouthpiece for the writer’s views’, to which Jared goes on to explain the conference call of fears expressed, that resulted in the writers paying heed. Season 4 was a cautionary but pivotal exploration for the writers and the actors’ execution of biblical lore. 10 seasons later the writers and cast are no stranger to portraying a Supernatural spin on the bible. The writers don’t stand as puppeteers to the current ongoing wacky way of the current world. Though there has been current references and famed celebrity guest stars, the writers of supernatural have created a scope of the lore and legends that have always been a part of the world. Supernatural shines light on the elements some of us cling onto so mindlessly with a light-hearted feel. It’s written in a way not to offend but to loosen the chains of what we know, should it be our ideas of monsters, mythology or the conventional family and takes the willing on a ride in a kick ass Impala around the nation to uncover the mystery of the week. No matter the lead at the reigns the writers of Supernatural have put the team on their backs. Giving the fans not always what they want but what needs to be written to hold true to why we’re still holding on. There writers are the ones who’ve made the ultimate crossroads deal. Their commitment to the brothers and the ties that keep them in business
What sets Supernatural apart from the lost shows of binge watchers’ past, you ask? Let’s start with Charmed, since both shows were birthed from the almighty WB. Charmed had the attraction of the three beautiful Halliwell sister witches, who juggled demons at the sacrifice of normality and stable love lives. Charmed explored one central focus, the mystical, demonic world of witchcraft. After a while, running in the same circles of sisters wanting to be normal but putting their duty as witches first, got tiring. It’s a classic to this day and is even being rebooted, however, the fall of Charmed lied in the lack of exploring and depth outside the realm of love and witchcraft. Supernatural explores lore, demonology, religion, fears both rational and irrational, magic and so much more. The Winchester brothers aren’t just good looking they’re good at what they do. It’s a family affair on the show and at conventions. The theme rings true again with the Vampire Diaries, and Buffy. These shows had also catered to one central element, the mythology of vampires, werewolves, demons and witches. It’s the same on Supernatural, however, in comparison, the graphics are better, vampires, demons and werewolves aren’t central to every episode. These character fads are just that, a part of a phase for the viewers. There’s a certain age appeal to vampires and werewolves, and it’s meant to draw in the bright eyed angst-y teenaged girls (and guys). Supernatural, on the other hand, was originally intended for the surly male audience, but reached down the generational pool and struck gold. It’s timeless in its ability to appeal to all ages and genre interests. Some of the supernatural elements on the other fleeting shows only hinted at the surface or dragged an idea out to its inevitable end. In another EW interview on how they come up with new stories, showrunner Robert Singer states “I think some of the reason some of these shows don’t have the longevity that we have is that they burn through story really fast, where we have a slower rollout, but I also think they start playing a little fast and loose with the rules to try to get a story done and I think somehow either consciously or subliminally, the audience knows that. We have somebody who really keeps tabs on that so the rules, we try to adhere to our rules. with that we are given the true juice that drive the series; rules. Supernatural has thrown hints to entice the viewers and explored them fully in following seasons and because of this, writers are able to explore but stay within their element, while giving the readers an old element with a greater more researched spin. There is no haste when it comes to producing an ‘not normal’ season. Stepping outside the realm of Supernatural to explore the success of fellow series, we’d have to look into broth that their cooked in. There are several elements to great television as well as different genres of interest. As stated above the following is a brief exploration. In the realm of genre we have animated, reality, anime, documentary and most specifically for this article, scripted series. The elements of interest depend on the viewer, for instance with anime, there’s a vast array of sub genes, Slice of life, Shoujo/Shounen, Psychological and for the closet freak there’s Hentai (I say closet because as we all know this genre is NSFW). In the broader sense of interest there’s comedy, action and adventure sci-fi, crime, horror/thriller, etc. For the readers’ consideration, Law and order: SVU (NBC), Criminal Minds (CBS), and Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), will be compared since they hold the air date of 2005 in common (except SVU). With these series, viewers are presented with 2 seemingly stressful professions of medical and law enforcement, where as we know people live for their jobs, avoid close relationships and therefore should have no life. The viewers are taken into the fold as we learn the relationships within the team, the risks and bonds that are tied and broken constantly and in new ways. There are boundaries to television that these shows haven’t failed to exceed.
As with appealing to an audience there are certain motivations for each show. The motivations are the driving force of the show and is usually the attraction element, the gem of scripted television is the adventure of solving a mystery in 43 minutes. Supernatural presents the monster of the week or the ‘Winchester of the day in need of saving’, SVU and Criminal Minds give us the crime of the week, and Grey’s give us a team of doctors faced with life or death situations. We’ve followed along with Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler since ‘payback’ and now we’re 19 seasons in. Grey’s Anatomy hails in the medical world for the past 14 seasons as we continue to explore Meredith Grey and the doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial as they face challenges within the hospital and their bonds both professional and physical. Criminal Minds’s 14 seasons have been a roller coaster of commitment. with the OG squad split-up since Prentiss left season 10, we’ve now had every other CBS veteran cast such as Jennifer Love Hewitt (Ghost Whisperer) , Aisha Tyler (The View), Adam Rodriguez (CSI: Miami) as a main character to fill in for Agent Prentiss. Season 12, we officially lost Shemar Moore as Agent Morgan and Thomas Gibson as Agent Hotchner. These shows are just a few that have continued to survive the odds. The viewers haven’t been given a series we’ve been given a family, a friend, a love that’s different to each individual. Aside from the short lived spin-offs, the death and resurgence of original cast members.
In scripted television there is a progression between the viewers and the characters themselves, this creates an attraction bound by loyalty of an avid watcher. There has to be a genuine family element as well, the characters give us what we may or may not have an amplifies the emotion. We cried when Reid was tortured for the first time and recovered with him. Every situation with Olivia as hostage had us scratching for a way out and crying ugly tears when a fellow officer came through for her. There has been sacrifices made and people saved, and thats what keeps us rooted to our screens. For 40 minutes a week we are voyeurs to a life only imagined. as stated by Dennis Heaton from Thestar.com on The Secrets to Long-Running Television, “At the end of the day the writers are creating characters that people want to invest in and to stay on that long-haul journey. It comes back to people falling in love with those characters.” When it comes to supernatural there are several gears that have tirelesly been worked and re-greased to keep the show running.
Aside from losing beloved characters every other season, Supernatural’s short comings arrive from the intriguing, though failed attempts at spin-offs. Bloodlines couldn’t have come at a worse time in season nine, with Abaddon raising hell in her ‘Queen-dom’ and Dean’s decent into the dark side, season nine had more than enough plotlines to keep up with. Bloodlines had too much going on for one episode, and yes, if better received it could have been drawn out with more fluidity, for some it focused too much on another family, which took the focus away from the Winchester’s just as viewers were left biting their nails for the next shoe. Bloodlines may have come off as a rabbit hole-esque filler episode leading us down a pit of potential that was too big for its small start. Wayward Sisters on the other hand, was a bit more widely received, at least for those who followed the growth of Sheriff Jody Mills and her adopted misfits. We waited for the possibility of Claire and Alex pulling out the ‘Jody’s been gone on a hunting trip and hasn’t come home in a few days’ dialogue with a long-awaited fangirl squeal. However, Wayward Sisters would have once again shifted the focus off the Winchesters. Wayward was meant as a back door in case Supernatural didn’t make it through season 13, but as always, the fandom prevailed, and the famed series carries on.
With Supernatural going on for so many seasons the main culprit of Supernatural’s short coming may be the viewer-ship. Live television is the determining factor of whether a season makes or breaks, and with digital apps and underground pirating, modern day viewers watch on their own time. Faithful as we may be, life happens and some of us would rather rely on Putlocker than wait through commercials. Supernatural isn’t a tween phase, it’s timeless with something for every age and
interest. A juicy burger with all the fixings of how far you’ll go for family and hunting down every son of a bitch looking for a suicide a la Winchester. Fortunately, the force is strong with this one, as corny as it may sound Supernatural is the phoenix of broadcast television, raising through the ashes of desperation for the faith of the many to continue if only for a season more. It’s all about the Winchesters and company, our focus on their world is primary, we were there for the hello and cried through every goodbye (even when they came back). Short comings or not no one’s looking forward to the day when we finally see which Tumblr thread from 2009 predicted the final demise, but until then Supernatural’s only shortcoming is doubt.
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