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Supernatural: Season 1 DVD Review

Supernatural: Season 1

September 22, 2006

Director: David Nutter, Kim Manners, Peter Ellis, Robert Singer,
Starring: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles,

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DVD Review

Out of all the science fiction and horror television shows that debuted during the 2005-2006 season, only Supernatural was picked up for another season. Why did it survive while other, better shows failed? As always there are a number of factors that determine how a show performs – the night it’s on, the time it airs and what other shows it goes up against. It also doesn’t hurt that Supernatural was, arguably, the least challenging of all the new shows.

Sam Winchester (Padalecki) is a smart, twentysomething poised to get into Stanford Law School. Out of the blue, his estranged brother Dean (Ackles) shows up and tells him that their father has been missing for an abnormally long period of time. It turns out that he’s spent the last 22 years hunting the evil, paranormal forces that killed his wife. He raised his two boys to respect and to also hunt the things that go bump in the night but Sam walked away when he realized that he had a chance at a different life. He agrees to help his brother find their father figuring that it will only take a day or two. Of course, they spend the next 21 episodes looking for him while dealing with a travelogue of urban legends and archetypal monsters from the horror genre: the Wendigo, ghosts, the Hook Man and vampires to name a few.

Dean is the less tactful of the two. He’s more direct and impulsive, preferring to call things as he sees them which is in sharp contrast to Sam’s more sensible nature. To their credit, Padalecki and Jensen play well off each other and are believable as brothers but they don’t have the kind of chemistry to draw us in. We don’t really get invested enough to care about their plight week after week. The two leads are certainly appealing enough and play well off each other but over the course of the season their characters develop very little despite their backstory being gradually fleshed out.

One of the more amusing references that runs throughout the season is to classic rock and heavy metal bands. In the pilot episode, the brothers listen to ACDC in their car; in “Phantom Traveler,” Dean introduces himself as Dr. James Hetfield (lead singer of Metallica); in the opening of “Hell House,” Dean sings the refrain from a Blue Oyster Cult song; and the episode entitled “In My Time of Dying” is a reference to a Led Zeppelin song of the same name. It is these little touches that gives the show a nice little zing and is a refreshing change from traditionally referencing other horror-themed T.V. shows or movies.

Supernatural adheres to a standard episodic formula as each episode has the brothers roll into a new town in a black 1967 Chevy Impala and investigate a new mystery with the search for their father as the overriding story arc. The show it is most indebted to is, of course, The X-Files with some of its key personnel working on both. Their seasons are similarly structured while Supernatural looks good, it has a tendency to plug in the usual creepy atmosphere and standard jolts but nothing truly terrifying or disturbing like in certain episodes of The X-Files. In the end, it is really hard to get excited by this by-the-numbers show.

Special Features:

The first disc features an audio commentary on “The Pilot” episode by series creator Eric Kripke, director David Nutter and producer Peter Johnson. Kripke mentions that they had several versions of the script for this episode and Nutter came in and gave them some focus. He also helped greenlight it. Kripke envisioned Sam as the Luke Skywalker to Dean’s Han Solo and touches upon how he cast Padalecki and Jensen in the roles. The participants talk about the numerous rewrites that the screenplay went through in order to sell the concept to the studio.

Also included is a commentary on “Phantom Traveler” by actors Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. They talk about their initial reactions to the show and the incredible workload they faced on every episode because they were the only regulars and, consequently, are in almost every scene. They feel that by the end of this season the show really hit its stride. Both guys have a smart-ass sense of humour as they playfully make fun of their own performances while also praising the crew.

There are deleted scenes for three episodes.

The second disc features deleted scenes for one episode, the third disc has deleted scenes for three episodes and disc four has deleted scenes for one episode.

The sixth disc kicks things off with the featurette “Supernatural: Tales from the Edge of Darkness.” Kripke has always been obsessed with urban legends and this dovetailed with his love of horror films from the 1980s. His original pitch was a blatant Kolchak the Night Stalker rip-off and fortunately the studio rejected this concept and so he came back with one that was more patterned after Route 66 but with a supernatural twist. Kripke touches upon the origins of the show, its influences and the casting of the two leads amongst other things.

“Day in the Life of Jared and Jensen” follows the show’s two leads during a typical day at work making the show. We see them hanging out in their trailers, getting their make-up put on, etc. which after a few minutes becomes a tired exercise in self-indulgence.

Also included is a “Gag Reel” featuring the usual assortment of blown lines and goofing around between takes.

Finally, there is a stills gallery featuring sketches and promotional photos from various episodes.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 75%

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