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If you follow the television industry behind the scenes in addition to watching scenes you may have heard back in August the CEO of the FX Network, John Landgraf, stated he believes there are simply too many TV shows being made. Mind you his comments came during the Television Critics Association Summer Tour so they raised more than a few eyebrows (that were otherwise watching television no doubt). A month later he expanded on his opinion…
“I’m sensing a little bit of a malaise to tell you the truth. There’s this other notion that you reached something called the paradox of choice, which is you give people too many choices and it breathes discontent because ultimately it’s very hard to pay attention to all the choices. It becomes work to sort through every opportunity that you’re giving them. So you get this vague sense of malaise that even when you’re watching something great there could be something greater that you’re not watching.”
So the last thing you, dear TV devotee, likely needs is another person suggesting you should be watching a show. But what may surprise is I’m recommending a show already well-established in its eleventh season…”Supernatural.”
My wife and I were watching when this series debuted on the WB Network (extra credit for anyone who remembers the WB) back in 2005. After the first couple of episodes we were split on continued viewing and the verdict was to pass. Perhaps it was divine intervention (devotees won’t be surprised by that notion) but we reversed course not long after…and now we’ve probably seen each of the 225-plus episodes produced at minimum a half-dozen times each. It has been appointment television for us for a long time now. (New episodes air Wednesdays at 9 PM Eastern on the CW Network)
So now you’re thinking…how can I possibly take on a show that has not only logged so many miles but is still traveling new roads? (“The Road So Far” is a common theme fans live by…the series’ lead characters log a lot of miles)
Well…my timing of this post coincides with – as long as current scheduling is legit – the “rebooting” of syndicated reruns on the TNT Network. Tuesday, November 24th TNT is scheduled to air Episode 1 of Season 1 at 10 AM Eastern. If you have the opportunity during Turkey Week that’s one way to sample the series. TNT runs several hours of “Supernatural” daily and has helped build the show’s fan base significantly over the last handful of years it has done so.
DVD and Streaming options are also readily available. I should note in particular on the Season 10 DVD release there is a special feature, a mini-documentary if you will, of what extraordinary lengths fans of “Supernatural” go to in not only showing their devotion to the show but for each other. It is one of the better-produced “extras” you’ll find.
Unfortunately it is difficult to suggest you can just dive in anywhere. In a show with this many hours in the rear view mirror multiple, season-long arc back stories obviously exist. Our always-on-the-road heroes, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester, have been to Hell and back.
Multiple times, in fact.
Why should you invest time carving out more time for “Supernatural?”
For starters it’s about determining and honoring your destiny in life, the strength one can draw from within even the most dysfunctional of families, Angels and Demons, Heaven and Hell…and even what lies in between those two far-from-final destinations. It’s got a little bit of everything. It’s violent. It will make you smile. It will make you cry. There are bad guys you root for on occasion (for the greater good). There are good guys you root against on occasion (for their own good).
The bottom line is you have two brothers hitting the highway and following down their dad’s path fighting all things evil. And there are a LOT of evil things out there that need fighting, I assure you.
I am not delusional enough to think I can do adequate justice in this confined space to the stellar work of stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki (both of whom are also – I’m told – considered to be “easy on the eyes.”)…co-stars Misha Collins, Mark A. Sheppard and Jim Beaver…and the tremendous line-up of guest stars, directors, producers, designers, etc. that have all executed their craft over all these years to provide you any kind of “Best Of” list. I’ve already risked your ire proposing you undertake taking on this series in addition to the ones you are trying to keep up with. To torture already-rabid fans reading this post of “Supernatural” with a “Top Episode” ranking would also be blogging suicide…not that I couldn’t come back from Death (another common theme fans relish).
So…instead I’ll just concentrate on newcomers who want to sample the show before making a formal commitment. Take a peek at the following episodes I find among my favorites, presented in order of appearance and admittedly front-loaded from the early seasons under the assumption you don’t want to be trying to figure what the show is all about too far in. And another very important disclaimer for long-time fans…my taste here runs towards episodes mixing horror and humor more often and more so than our “mythology episodes.”
Season 1, Episode 1 – “Pilot” – Watch this episode first. Do it. It truly sets the stage for what will follow about as good as any pilot episode you’ll ever see and, if you indeed want to jump around, the baseline provided will come in very handy. It also features one of the more shocking scenes you’ll see in a television show’s initial episode.
Season 1, Episode 11 – “Scarecrow” – If you need an example of the “Monster Of The Week” strategy the series cut its teeth on you can likely do no better than watch this episode which deals with an investigation of disappearing couples within a small, truly creepy town in rural Indiana.
Season 2, Episode 18 – “Hollywood Babylon” – The Winchesters go undercover as production assistants on a haunted movie set. “Supernatural” likes to play behind the Fourth Wall of making television and movies…letting us all know this is all just make believe…right? Right?
Season 3, Episode 11 – “Mystery Spot” – The show pays homage to the classic comedy “Groundhog Day.” How many days – and in how many ways – can one die? Turns out a lot…because of the “Trickster.” One of the best time-loop hours ever.
Season 3, Episode 13 – “Ghostfacers” – Our heroic brothers investigate a case Dad couldn’t crack years earlier and stumble into a wannabe ghost hunting reality show pilot the likes of which after sampling you’ll never, ever take a show on paranormal studies seriously again.
Season 4, Episode 5 – “Monster Movie” – An Oktoberfest effort with polka bands, big beer and bigger pretzels where Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy…and a pizza delivery guy…all wind up stealing the show as the cause of the mayhem within a Pennsylvania town’s celebration is far from black-and-white…but this episode is. A tribute to classic creature cinema.
Season 4, Episode 17 – “It’s A Terrible Life” – We don’t know how it happened but the Brothers Winchester have landed in an alternate reality where they don’t know each other…yet. Working at the same company they eventually wind up working a case of sorts…mysterious suicides are all happening under the same roof. And then an Angel appears…
Season 5, Episode 8 – “Changing Channels” – The “Trickster” once more enjoys playing tricks on Sam and Dean. Winking at its audience about the making of hit television shows “Supernatural” takes its shots at parodying series we all love whether we’re able to admit it or not. You’ll never take a drug commercial seriously again either (not that you did to begin with…).
Season 5, Episode 9 – “The Real Ghostbusters” – I have mentioned how fanatical fans of “Supernatural” are. This episode explains that better than anything. A hilarious send-up staged within the confines of a “Supernatural” fan convention it is also a “love letter” to the hard-core fan base this series enjoys.
If you have room…invite the Winchesters in from the road for a spell. They don’t stay in one place for very long…but they might stay in yours.