I give The WB credit for one thing: Its ratings may not challange the Big Three networks, but it sure knows how to cater to an audience. Since its inception, The WB has been a breeding ground for attractive teen soap stars (the kind who appear in “7th Heaven,” “Everwood,” “Gilmore Girls,” “One Tree Hill” and even the soaped-up “Smallville”). From there, these young hunks and hotties are free to populate the dozens of cheap teen horror movies that Hollywood cranks out with wearying regularity these days. Where would the remake of House of Wax have been without you, WB?
This season, WB has decided to cut out the middleman and staff its own teen horror franchise with the introduction of the new series “Supernatural.” Jared Padelecki (“Gilmore Girls,” House of Wax) and Jensen Ackles (“Smallville,” Devour) star as a pair of brothers who unite to do the “Scooby-Doo” thing or the Ghostbusters thing or the “X-Files” thing--choose your own cultural reference point.
Seems that Sam and Dean Winchester are inheritors to some sort of mystical legacy. When they were just little tykes, mom floated up to the ceiling, started bleeding and then exploded in a demonic fireball of some kind. After that, dad went a little nutty, traveling the country, becoming an expert on the supernatural and destroying all sorts of ghosts, monsters and demons.
Years later, young Sam and Dean have developed into photogenic, college-age cover models for “Sullen Hipster” monthly. Sam has wandered off to forget his past and become a lawyer. But Dean is driving around the country in a battered muscle car, listening to AC/DC and helping dad bust ghosts. Unfortunately, dear old pop has vanished while scoping out yet another spooky mystery. Dean recruits a reluctant Sam, and the two sibs go on a weekly search for dad, who seems to have uncovered some sort of demonic conspiracy.
“Supernaural” is derivative of at least a dozen other shows. To the “Scooby-Doo” and “X-Files” list, you can also add “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Charmed” and “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” (making a comeback on ABC this season, coincidentally). The writers don't exert much effort coming up with original ideas. Most of the series' foes (the pilot episode's generic “Woman in White”) seem culled from a handful of urban legend web sites. To cap it off, the show doesn't try very hard to establish believable supernatural “rules” for this world. (Shooting at ghosts, for example, seems fairly effective.)
Still, the show is professionally assembled. The stars do their duty of acting as teen girl bait, and the directing (handled, initially, by “X-Files” regular David Nutter) is appropriately atmospheric. Given that its audience will be primarily of junior high school age, “Supernatural” isn't a bad series. It's got potential at least--if it can keep from tripping too badly over “X-Files” turf. Stay away from Jersey Devils, Fluke-Men and electrically powered Giovanni Ribisis and you might just survive, boys.
“Supernatural” airs every Tuesday at 8 p.m. on KWBQ-19.