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The premise: two brothers travel the country investigating paranormal occurrences, and in the meanwhile search for their missing father.

The best part about pilot episodes is that they go nearly a full 20 min without commercial interruption.

Supernatural begins, as many stories do, with a flashback, an idyllic family scene. A lovely young mother, nurturing father, a boy of five or six, and another infant boy are enjoying a normal, “isn’t life swell” evening at home. After some heartwarming nighty-nights, the boys are put to bed and the mom goes off to sleep herself.

They’re laying it on pretty thick at this point. Even putting aside the fact that is an introduction and something has to happen, you know somebody’s doomed. So when it happens, it’s not exactly a surprise. What is pleasantly surprising is what and how it happens. The young mother goes up (literally – she’s stuck to the ceiling) in flames directly above the crib of the infant Sam. The father rescues the boys but is unable to save his wife, and they flee the house.

Flash-forward 20 years or so, and Sam (Jared Padalecki) is a student at Stanford, and dating a spectacular blonde that bears an uncanny resemblance to Mom. Blah blah high score on LSATS, blah blah, interview for Stanford Law on Monday, blah full ride.

Sam’s older brother Dean (Jensen Ackles) appears after a long estrangement and expositions the last 20 years. Blah blah, Sam left, blah blah, turned his back on the family, etc…

That’s one of the biggest flaws of Supernatural. I’m cutting them some pilot slack, but they really need to tighten up the exposition. They’re trying to get across too much info in too short a time.

That said - the rest of the show is pretty damn good for a pilot. There’s a Monster-of-the-Week (MOTW) that the brothers have to defeat, and along the way they pick up clues to find their missing father. It ends with another conflagration in which the only obstacle to Sam permanently teaming up with Dean is removed.

Strengths: Casting. The two leads have great chemistry and are both really easy on the eyes. As an actor, Padalecki is serviceable, but I predict its Ackles who’s going garner the most attention - at least from the Tiger Beat set. He’s really, really pretty. I mean he’s seriously hot – and has a certain wry, bad-boy demeanor that, um…he, ahh...yeah.

Anyway, he’s decent.

Complaints: The family story bits were way too talky. Once they’d gotten into the MOTW the story moved along better, though, and I’m hoping that in future episodes they’ll release back story in smaller morsels, and spare us the exposition.

A possible weakness could be the minimalist cast. There’s no clear antagonist, and so far there are only two main characters plus the missing father. The brothers are strong characters, but ensemble casts seem to be having better luck carrying hour-long shows. A variety of personalities provide a wider pool of faces for the audiences to connect with, and the leads are kinda similar from a demographic perspective. I’d say this is the biggest potential source of doom. Strength in diversity, people!

As a horror show it has potential. There were a few scares, and disturbing imagery, and they successfully cultivated an atmosphere of dread that it managed to maintain throughout the episode. I mean, not The Ring level dread, but pretty dark for TV. If they can make the tiny cast work, and snap up the dialog, they may have something. Supernatural has grabbed my interest, and I’m willing to watch again to see where it goes.

Hopefully it goes in the “Jensen Ackles removes key articles of clothing” direction.

Marin Carpenter

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