If you are a fan of the original Kolchak: The Night Stalker, you were more than likely disappointed in the remake a couple of years ago on ABC. Your hope is now once again restored. Supernatural is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to the Night Stalker. Like Kolchak, the Winchester brothers are faced with weekly incarnations of evil. They’re forced to research these legends and figure out a way to stop them. As Kolchak discovered, it’s a thankless job. Sure, Supernatural is populated with all sorts of beasties and nasties, but it also manages to hold on to a sense of humor that rounds out these adventures to make this one of the most entertaining shows around. When UPN and WB merged, I was a little worried about Supernatural. You do the math (that was another review). Two networks worth of shows, one network worth of programming time. Half of the shows needed to vanish, and I was concerned Supernatural would be one, if history of respect for genre shows was any indication. Fortunately for us, the show has not only survived, but it has thrived, looking to be around for quite a while yet.
What amazes me most about Supernatural is the incredible balance the show manages to keep up week after week. Of course, there is that creature-of-the-week idea, but without taking anything away from each episode, there is an overall story arc that ties these creatures and moments together in such an intricate yet easy-to-follow fashion. Each episode blends just the right mix of darkness, comedy, and series mythology. Even The X-Files wasn’t able to spin this flawless a tapestry. I also can’t say enough about the leads. Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles have a wonderfully complicated chemistry that gives us an element even Kolchak never had. This is not a one-trick-pony relationship. Under all of the brotherly love and shared tragedy, there are far more emotional themes that surface from week to week. There are resentments and rivalries that can suddenly dominate their intercourse. Unlike most shows, these conflicts are real and remain a part of the fabric of this relationship, not to be brought out and then quickly overcome never to be seen again. Each of these events leaves a visible mark on their personalities. This kind of continuity is almost unheard of. It requires discipline and dedication by everyone involved: actors, writers, and production staff. And again, the season finale will leave you counting the hours until the next episode.
The fact is this. If you are even remotely a genre fan and have not checked out Supernatural, get your butt down to the store and get the early seasons now. I promise you won’t be able to stop watching. Now that the show has been coming out on high definition Blu-ray, it only gets better. This is exactly the kind of series that Blu-ray was meant for. Detail is important on a show of this nature. There’s a lot of nuance to the series, and now you’ll be able to catch it like never before.
In season 1 Sam Winchester (Padalecki) was in college. His fiancée was attacked by a creature that had once also taken his mother. Enter brother Dean (Ackles) who arrives to take the mourning Sam on a cross-country search for their missing father. It turns out that Daddy Winchester has been on a self-imposed crusade to find the monster that took his wife and any other demon or creature he might be able to hunt along the way. We also find out he’s trained the boys to be quite capable monster hunters themselves. Most of the first year dealt with the brothers fighting their way to their dad. It ended in a hell of a cliffhanger. Along the way these brothers travel the country in their classic muscle car, uncovering one urban myth after another. The chills are some of the best television has seen since The X-Files left the air nearly a decade ago. The production values are always high.
Now it’s out on Blu-ray and in high definition. Fortunately Warner has decided to spend the money on the extra disc and provide the full season on 4 discs instead of their previous Blu-ray releases.
Each episode of Supernatural is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The 1080p image is brought to you through a VC-1 codec. As you might expect, this show is dark in more than just its nature. Much of the action occurs at night, so black levels need to be spot-on, or any detail can be quickly washed away like blood pools in a hurricane. Supernatural delivers with great shadow definition and deep levels of black. I’ve seen the broadcast HD versions, and these are even better. What is remarkable about the colors is that they manage to hold on to such fine definition even under intense low-light filming conditions. There is nothing about this transfer that will keep you from enjoying the best horror series since Kolchak.
Supernatural’s audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. I’m not sure why there was no uncompressed audio provided, but the series certainly would have benefited from the inclusion. Instead we have a very mundane presentation which has to depict some rather incredible images. It falls flat for a Blu-ray release. Certainly dialog comes through just fine. There is some rather aggressive use of surrounds on rare occasions. What really suffers here is your sub.
There are some select Audio Commentaries.
All in Standard Definition.
Behind The Story: (1:12:39) The Museum Of Television And Radio honors the show at the Paley Television Fest of 2006. A panel of crew and the two stars answer questions first from a moderator who looks at his watch a lot. Then they take questions from the audience. There’s a lot of laughter.
Tales From The Edge Of Darkness: (22:53) This is a typical behind-the-scenes look at the first year, mostly through interview clips. There are a lot of the same stories you heard on the panel.
A Day In The Life Of Jared And Jensen: (10:37) This is a video diary that looks at a typical work day for the show’s two stars.
The Devil’s Roadmap: This is an interactive feature. There is a US map, and cars locate the place where the episodes took the brothers. Click on a car and see a short production feature on that episode.
Gag Reel: (7:44) Like the first DVD set, there’s a short and entertaining gag reel on this set. I’m happy to see this is becoming a rather standard extra on many shows. This thing has a very produced look complete with music. I rather enjoy the more spontaneous stuff more.
Deleted Scenes: Many of the episodes offer some extra footage. Nothing to scream about here, but nice to have.
With the series entering its 6th season on television and soon its 5th season on home video, you can imagine that it’s been a little while since I had the chance to go back to the beginning and revisit the origins of this spectacular series. I have to give a huge nod of credit to Warner for slipping this season into its schedule on Blu-ray. I fully expect that we’ll see the 5th season out this summer or fall. But before you go any deeper into this vastly growing mythology, take a look at where it all began, and for the first time see it like you never saw it before in high definition. When the 3rd and 4th seasons arrived on Blu-ray, you would think that the fans had given up on seeing the earlier episodes in HD. Wrong. “Actually, we were counting on it.”