The WB's 'Supernatural': A Ghostly, Ghastly Trend

Spooked: Jared Padalecki, left, and Jensen Ackles as brothers in spirited pursuit of some very lost souls on
Spooked: Jared Padalecki, left, and Jensen Ackles as brothers in spirited pursuit of some very lost souls on "Supernatural." (By Justin Lubin -- The Wb)
By Tom Shales
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 13, 2005

"Supernatural" is neither super nor natural -- "Discuss," as "Linda Richman" (Mike Myers) used to say on "Saturday Night Live." But "Supernatural," part of a trend toward frightening and sometimes frightful new fall shows, does deliver genuine shocks and jolts, enough so that one might reasonably call it electrifying.

Or maybe electrocuting -- an inarguably less enjoyable sensation.

Essentially "The Hardy Boys Go Ghostbusting," the series, premiering on the WB network (Channel 50) at 9 tonight, stars likable Jared Padalecki and unlikable Jensen Ackles as brothers Sam and Dean, who were children in Lawrence, Kan., 20 years ago when their mommy, manipulated by malevolent forces beyond their daddy's control, was first plastered to the ceiling as she flailed helplessly and then, along with the rest of the house, incinerated in huge billows of flame.

Huge billows of flame are very big in the new fall shows.

The boys and their father escaped. We encounter Sam in the present, grown up and leading a normal life as a student at Stanford University. He has a beautiful roommate named Jessica and a chance at getting into law school -- until, after two years of separation, brother Dean decides to make a noisy reappearance.

Dean doesn't just call or drop by. Writer and series creator Eric Kripke, to inject a phony scare near the start of the show, has Dean stupidly break into Sam's apartment on Halloween night, thus terrifying the occupants. Asked to explain his bizarre behavior, Dean says smirkingly (which is how he says everything), "I was looking for a beer." Sam should kick his butt back out on the street then and there.

But Dean has a mission. He wants Sam to abandon college and go off on a wild ghost chase or two -- attempting in the process to track down Dad, who has devoted his life to finding the evil force that killed Mom but now has vanished himself. Sam is reluctant to leave, but if he stayed put, there'd be no show.

Soon he and his tiresomely smart-alecky brother are in Jericho, Calif., where they run smack into the local legend of the "woman in white," who lures men to fiery and bloody doom with her frequent appearances as a tattered hitchhiker.

We're told that everyone for miles around knows of the tale, but that doesn't stop a young man, on his way home, from stopping to give Ghostie Girl a ride and ending up going straight to Hell himself. As with many of the fright shows proliferating this season, the special effects on "Supernatural" are easily as graphic and gory as those in a PG-13 horror movie.

The details of the woman in white's saga, whether shown or discussed, are ghastly. She is a member of a spook subculture, we are told, made up entirely of women who went mad and, during unspeakable rages, murdered their own children. Now their spirits wander the world seeking some kind of reconciliation.

There isn't much in "Supernatural" to engage viewers older than Sam and Dean, but it's certainly not the worst of the new troop of spookers. Dean may be an obnoxious boor, but he does get some of the better lines, as when Sam scoffingly remembers Dad long ago telling him not to be afraid of the dark. "Don't be afraid of the dark?" says Dean, who's now doing the scoffing. "Are you kidding me? Of course you should be afraid of the dark!"

Yes. And there's so much of it -- especially on TV.

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