Tag Archives: heroes

Supernatural (2005 – current)

Two brothers wage a war on evil, fuelled by their loved ones taken from them prematurely and the legacy left to them by their father.

Wow. So dramatic? Already? On the one hand, that really is Supernatural in a nutshell. It is an ultimate battle against demons, wraiths, succubi, ghosts and, yes, the occasional vampire. It is what I like to call “conflict with a capital K (for Killing)”. It is pure drama.

With all those other-worldly baddies, though, it’s also a perfect opportunity for some nail-biting, pillow-clutching horror. Very rarely have we had a chance to see good horror on television. There have been attempts but, really, since the early demise of American Gothic in 1996, nothing has come close.

So we’ve got the drama and we’ve got the scares. There’s a rule of three in storytelling and the third thing here is comedy. The comedy is mild, wry and sometimes relies on knowledge of the characters and their history. That’s not a bad thing. Instead of the comedy being a draw card to the series, it’s more like a prize for long-term viewers.

There is so much to love in Supernatural, it’s hard to imagine why it’s not one of the more popular shows on TV. While it’s a great show to watch, it’s possibly a hard show to sell. It doesn’t have the novelty factor of something like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Channel 7 kept spinning that around the schedule until it found a home amongst the insomniac university students who kept it alive in a late-night slot.

1970s and 80s heavy-metal ballads, muscle cars, leather jackets and scowling faces on the backdrop of the American mid-west does not really make for appealing teaser production from an Australian point of view. It’s not about police and it’s not about lawyers or set in a hospital. In fact, on a surface level it’s not about anything that a new audience can identify with.

What it is about, though, is good old-fashioned horror, action and thrills. It’s a comic book on the screen. Heroes save people in peril and sometimes get into peril themselves. In that sense it’s predictable. But so what? Every now and then we need a little escapism. We need adventure and we need good guys kicking bad guys’ arses. Supernatural gives us that but with a style and sense of Americana unlike anything we’ve seen.

Supernatural started the year after Lost and the year before Heroes. It really should appeal to audiences of both and especially those who loved the former but found the latter lacking in any substance. Unlike Heroes, it tells a big story by focusing on a small portion of it. It builds suspense rather than forcing mystery and disseminates information as required rather than creating artificial and soulless reveals.

Mostly, though, it’s fun and intelligent entertainment. Supernatural is exactly the kind of escapism we should be inviting into our homes.

Supernatural Season 4, is available on DVD. You can find all your entertainment needs: DVDs, Blu Ray and gaming consoles, including Playstation games, at Sanity Entertainment. —Sponsoring Boxcutters

Conspiracy theories in television

Last week Oliver Stone announced his latest project. It’s a ten-part documentary series called the Secret History of America.

Stone is the king of creative conspiracy theorists. This series is apparently going to include newly discovered facts from the Kennedy administration and the Vietnam War amongst other things.

So I think it’s important to note how television has shaped the landscape of conspiracy theories.

Of course we can spend hours talking about the X-Files and its Lone Gunmen characters who subsequently had their own spin-off series that didn’t last very long. We could subsequently disappear up our own arses trying to work out why it didn’t last very long and who gave the order to pull it from air.

We can talk about the first moon landing being the first televised event to be derided as a hoax by conspiracy theorists who believe that the whole thing was shot on a soundstage in Burbank.

We can talk about programmes like 24, Prison Break, Heroes and even my beloved Lost, that base their entire story-lines around international conspiracy theories.

But we won’t, and I think you know why.

Conspiracy theories are a simple way to create intrigue in a series. They give the audience a chance to be part of the story-telling. Every reveal escalates the conspiracy up some chain of command that feeds on our fears of lack of freedom. They raise a question of the control we have over our own lives but, more importantly, how much trust do we put in the medium that is giving us information.

While these shows impel us to question everything that we see on television, they also serve as a warning. When we see the protagonist who has been following a conspiracy-chain for several episodes or several seasons, they always end up as loners, obsessed with finding the truth, often wearing the same clothes day after day.

So do these shows want us to actually know the truth or are they trying to stop us from finding the truth? And who’s in charge of trying to keep us confused like this?

Would you believe me if I told you it was an international federation of school teachers? I’m not crazy. This is the truth, people. They control the information. We are all their puppets.

Or maybe not.

This first appeared as an audible segment on John Richards’s excellent Outland Institute radio programme.