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Warner Home Video presents
Supernatural: The Complete First Season (2005-2006)

Sam: When I told Dad I was scared of the thing in my closet, he gave me a .45.
Dean: What was he supposed to do?
Sam: I was nine years old! He was supposed to say 'don't be afraid of the dark'.
Dean: Don't be afraid of the dark? What? Are you kidding me? Of course you should be afraid of the dark.

- Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: September 06, 2006

Stars: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles
Other Stars: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Sarah Shahi, Elizabeth Bond, Adrianne Palicki, Samantha Smith, Amy Acker, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Jaime Ray Newman, Jovanna Huguet, Loretta Devine, Nicki Lynn Aycox, Julie Benz, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Beth Broderick, Brendan Fletcher, William B. Davis
Director: David Nutter, Kim Manners, Robert Singer, Ken Girotti, Guy Bee, Allan Kroeker, Peter Ellis, Robert Duncan McNeill, David Jackson, Phil Sgriccia, Paul Shapiro, Chris Long, Whitney Ransick, Tony Wharmby

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (moderate horror violence and gore)
Run Time: 15h:36m:00s
Release Date: September 05, 2006
UPC: 012569806788
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+BB+ B-

DVD Review

In the hip void left by Buffy The Vampire Slayer and The X-Files along comes Supernatural, a WB series that debuted in fall 2005 as some sort of viable contender to bring standalone evil, a recurring demonic mythology, dry humor and hunky leads that fit the network mold of skewing young. And perhaps as a tip of the hat, Buffy/Angel regular Julie Benz and Mulder enemy William B. Davis (Cigarette Smoking Man) even show up in their own episodes.

It's the story of the twenty-something Winchester brothers (Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles) who are carrying on the family business of ridding the world of supernatural evil—one small town at a time—all the while hunting for their missing demon-hunter father and the thing that killed their mother when they were kids. But what's hip here is that the show isn't afraid to get grisly or gory when it needs to (more so than Buffy ever did), all the while keeping up with the wacky banter, like Dean's using the name of rock stars (John Bonham, James Hetfield, even Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel) as his frequent aliases.

Sam (Padalecki) is the college boy, drawn back into the fold when rough-around-the-edges Dean (Ackles) recruits him to rejoin forces, a decision made somewhat easier by an additional horrific event that takes place during the pilot episode. And all of this return to the family business comes after watching their mother burn to death while demonically stuck to the ceiling 22 years earlier, which is the kind of understandable thing that will really get those "let's-find-the-thing-that-killed-mom" juices a-flowing. The boys are then off in Dean's black hotrod, with its trunk full of supernatural-fighting weaponry, their father's notebook full of otherworldly lore, conveniently finding themselves with no shortage of money (a few quick references to a credit card scam or two) and the ability to travel from town to town investigating and stopping some random new evil each episode. All of this peppered with the occasional advancement of the series' main find-dad-and-what-killed-mom story arc.

There's a nice mixture of familiar supernatural folklore (the woman in white, phantom travelers, the hook man, Bloody Mary) along with things like spirit-controlled vengeful insects, a haunted asylum or one very nasty scarecrow. One ep in particular (The Benders) even sidesteps the whole paranormal subtext and goes for a traditional Texas Chainsaw Massacre approach, which has the boys confronting some equally deadly but just plain human villainy. The structure doesn't vary much, and typically begins with the death of some hapless victim, the arrival of Sam and Dean to investigate (after reading about the death or deaths online, of course), an attractive female secondary character who is usually pivotal to the storyline, the inevitable confrontation with whatever entity is raising its own sort of hell, and a final shot of Dean's car riding off into the distance. This narrative system holds true for the bulk of the season, with just the occasional minor variation, and basically forms the mold upon which everything rests. It's not necessarily a weak structure, but it is one that becomes more apparent when you watch eps back-to-back.

Regular television viewers of Supernatural no doubt are familiar with the show's reliance on using snippets of popular rock songs, and thankfully the licensing gods did their thing, because all of that well-placed music is still here (unlike what happened with Threshold). AC/DC, Foreigner, Ratt, Bad Company, Black Sabbath, Iron Butterfly and The Allman Brothers are just a few of familiar artists used here for quick effect, usually accompanying a Dean-driving sequence. Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear The Reaper gets a particularly nice out-of-the-norm placement in Faith, alternating between shots of Dean being faith-healed and a poor woman being stalked by a soul-hungry reaper who bears a passing resemblance to the Buffyverse's infamous Gentlemen from the Hush episode.

Over the course of 22 episodes there are a few clunkers (the ghost truck of Route 666, for example), but that's not an awful slugging percentage, because the bulk of these work well for what they are, which was originally intended as a weekly dose of titular horror and suspense. Still, none of these are especially scary by a long stretch, but they are solidly constructed visually—as with the heart-stealing shadow demons of Shadow or that damnable Scarecrow—so there's plenty of fog and flashlights that make some of the more predictable resolutions still more tolerable than they could have been. And just when things could have become cookie cutter evil-of-the-week, midseason the slow introduction of some extrasensory powers of Sam's, the temporary return of their father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and a recurring sexy demon girl stirs the pot a little, transforming the final batch of episodes into an enjoyable little ride that bobs and weaves in all the right places.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: All 22 episodes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Colors are not overly vivid, and seem to carry some intentional correction and/or de-saturation, giving each episode an almost metallic hue. This noticeably enhances the horror vibe, and the transfers display respectable levels of sharpness and detail throughout the run. Black levels are above bar, and for a show full of so many dark and shadowy moments that certainly doesn't hurt the quality of transfers. Grain is very minimal, as are any negligible compression artifacting.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The sole audio choice is a nice English language 2.0 surround mix that delivers a very spacious spread across the front channels, with extensive and pronounced directional pans that widens the experience a bit. There isn't a whole lot of rear channel activity, but the sub gets a moderate workout during the spooky moments. Voice quality is clear, and overall the presentation here does a lot with a little.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 132 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese with remote access
14 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Peter Johnson, David Nutter, Eric Kripke, Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Four-fold case
Picture Disc
6 Discs
6-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. DVD-ROM Web links
  2. Stills Gallery
Extras Review: This six-disc set comes packaged in a fouri-fold case inside of a slipcase, and there are brief episode summaries, original airdates, as well as writer/director credits. Each disc carries the Play All option, as well as the opportunity to view each installment individually, and there is also the option to turn off the recap intro that begins each episode, which if you're watching back-to-back tales is a nice plus.

Disc one carries a pair of commentary tracks, the only two that show up on this collection. Creator Eric Kripke, director David Nutter and producer Peter Johnson are on board for the Pilot, in a fairly effusive set of production anecdotes concerning baby problems, the series' development (where the terms "go pilot" and "go series" get bandied about) and a surprising network request for more blood and gore. Less engaging and far more fluffy is the track on Phantom Traveler, with stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles sharing info such as how long in advance they get their scripts amidst some casual lighthearted attempts at humor.

Also spread across the 22 episodes are 14 deleted/extended scenes, for Pilot (3), Wendigo (1), Phantom Traveler (1), Hook Man (3), Nightmare (2), Home (2), Scarecrow (1) and Faith (1). There aren't any commentaries or background info as to why a given scene was cut or trimmed, and overall the content doesn't offer much to truly make or break a given ep, and if was a wagering man I'd bet they fell under the usual bugaboo of time constraints and slowing the narrative down.

The rest of extras show up on disc six, beginning with Supernatural: Tales From The Edge of Darkness (22m:52s), a decent but light EPK look at the evolution of the show from concept to air, with input from the likes of creative types McG, Eric Kripke and Peter Johnson. Kripke lays out a couple of original concepts that eventually were scrapped, and all of the comments are layered in between clips from the show and the occasional behind-the-scenes shot.

In what is probably a nod to the swooning teen female crowd, there's Day In The Life of Jared and Jensen (10m:37s), basically a hodgepodge of the boys at work. Ditto with the silly Gag Reel (07m:44s), chock full of wacky line flubs and adlibs.

There's also a brief Stills Gallery with twenty or so production drawings, mostly of the evil creatures and entities, as well as an easy-to-find Easter Egg (:36s) of a pair alternate main title sequences. Space-wasting DVD-ROM access leads to things like script access and character notes.

Each ep is cut into 6 chapters, and feature optional subtitles in French, Spanish, Portuguese or Chinese.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

It's not perfect, and it's hardly all that logical if you overanalyze things, but either was Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and that show is very high on my list of favorites. Plus, any show that tries this hard to present a menacing new supernatural evil each and every week will get my vote every time. Not every ep is a winner, but when the show is on its game, this is full of creepy, dark fun.

Highly recommended.


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