Something felt different about Supernatural at this year's Comic-Con. Yes, show leads Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester) and Jared Padalecki (Sam Winchester) weren't there, with Misha Collins (Castiel) and Jim Beaver (Bobby Singer) in their place, but that wasn't it. Sure, creator Eric Kripke, and executive producers Sera Gamble and Ben Edlund were there for the third year in a row delivering enticing teasers for the new season, but that was nothing new either. Neither was the massive line of fans winding outside ready to pack the large 6BCF ballroom. If anything, Supernatural's popular presence at the con (along with Smallville) warranted a larger room.
No, this year Supernatural established that it's no longer the show that could. It's now the show that did. Welcome to the status of established veteran.
(A light spoiler ahead if you squint hard enough).
"We never dreamt it would go five years. At least I didn't," Eric Kripke said about his show in the press room before the panel. Dreamt or not, the attending writers and cast had plenty of excitement to share about the upcoming season five story lines. As usual though, they only gave enough to tease, stirring up restless fans in the process. Judging by their wicked delivery at both the press conference and panel, that's exactly the way they like it.
"We’re supposed to be coy I’m told," Ben Edlund told us a couple of times with a grin during his session. Jim Beaver was a bit more honest when asked specifics about his storyline. "I'd love to answer these, but I’d still love to do so and still have a job. Since I can’t, I won't."
Despite the season five buzz, the issue naturally came up about a possible season six, a controversy that's lingered ever since Kripke was quoted in a February Entertainment Weekly article to be against doing it (he's only contracted through season five). His mind seems to have changed since then (although there's reliable info that suggests that quotes from everyone in that article came after a really bad day on the set). "I’m going to cross that bridge when I get to it. I am breaking episode six of this season, my head is so far away from season six that I honestly have no idea… I’m very interested and anything can happen."
Given the fact the show's actors are contracted through season six and CW president Dawn Ostroff recently told the TCA she'd like to see Supernatural around for a long time, any talk of the five-year only plan seems moot. Or does it? Kripke seems to have figured out the loophole. "There was a five-year plan and a five-year story. We are in the fifth year of that story. This is the last chapter of this volume and we plan on telling it well and climatically, but you know we are certainly also batting around ideas. There’s no reason there can’t be another volume, there’s no reason a new epic story can’t begin."
So what about the rumored strained relationship with their network? Kripke actually likes their arrangement. "They’ve been really supportive from the beginning in the key and most important way which is they’ve always let us do what we’ve exactly wanted to do. In the CW class we’re the goth kids sitting in the back row and they don’t try to pretty us up." Not that The CW needs to try. With Ackles and Padalecki as the Winchester brothers, along with Collins as the dreamy yet conflicted angel Castiel, that's all the pretty they need.
The Other Hot Brothers
On the other end of Thursday nights is quite a different story. The CW has called upon Supernatural to play strong anchor for their top rated night, pairing it with the new drama The Vampire Diaries and sending aging veteran Smallville to Friday nights.
The Vampire Diaries stars Ian Somerhandler and Paul Wesley as two centuries-old vampire brothers struggling over the soul of a young teenage girl, played by Nina Dobrev. The series is based on the novels of the same name by L.J. Smith.
While shuffling a proven lineup is considered by many to be a risky move for an already shaky network like The CW, the change was designed to secure Thursday's future stronghold with their niche audiences while calling upon their established veteran to fix their Friday night woes. Still, there are big questions as to how well The Vampire Diaries will do initially. "It's really weird because we don't have a lead-in," said co-creator and executive producer Kevin Williamson. "We are the lead-in and I don't know what that means. It means they really need to market the show. Because if they don't no one will know it's there."
The long term potential is there for Thursday nights, thinks executive producer Bob Levy. "Kevin and Julie have already thought out the first three seasons, but until we're on the air and see how the ratings are, you never know. Nobody's counting on anything but I really feel this has legs."
So what about the pairing with Supernatural? Co-creator and executive producer Julie Plec had a good idea for the CW. "I think if the network's thinking, they'll do 'Night of the Hot Brothers.'"
Hot brothers or not, there was plenty of good buzz about The Vampire Diaries pilot at the Comic Con, which aired during Wednesday's preview night and again at Saturday's panel. The five minutes from Supernatural's fifth season opener got the fans in a frenzy, so September 10th is looking very promising.
Now Supernatural can finally relax and enjoy the fact that they're no longer the underappreciated bubble show. Hopefully that status will help The Vampire Diaries overcome their "something to prove" hurdle. If anything, they'll get some stray Smallville fans that tune in not realizing their show has moved. "That'll only work once," Williamson said over that possibility. On a night featuring two sets ofgood looking brothers, maybe once is all they need.
(In a few weeks I'll have extensive preview articles on both The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural based on the Comic-Con press room interviews and panels).