Pimp My Show!

The title says it all. We are already a few months into the Fall 2006 television season — some of the new series have already come and gone, others have started to develop solid fan followings. I wanted to invite my loyal readers to share with us which new shows have really caught your fancy and why. (Of course, it’s always fun to hear which new shows have bored or disgusted you, too.) It’s been a while since we’ve had a really good conversation going with the readers of this blog so I am hoping you will rise to the occasion and share with us what you think have been the most interesting new shows this season.

And of course, since I’ve got lots of international readers, don’t presume we are just talking about American shows. I’d love to hear about amazing shows out there in other countries which are generating fan interest.

To get the ball rolling, I dug out some notes I sent to the members of the Convergence Culture Consortium this summer, before any of the shows had actually reached the air. I tried to predict which new shows would be “most fan friendly.” It’s interesting to see how well I did.


First, let’s define “fan friendly.” By fan friendly, I mean programs that attract strong, committed and highly visible followings as manifested in such activities as fan fiction writing, convention discussions, and online forums. Such programs may or may not enjoy ratings success by traditional standards. So, the CSI franchise consistently ranks in the top tier of the Nielsen ratings but doesn’t generate anywhere near as much interest within the fan communities as a lower rated show such as Veronica Mars. Indeed, historically, fan favorite shows enjoyed a marginal position on the schedule, having strong niche appeal but struggling to stay on the air. That’s why there have been so many letter writing campaigns through the years to keep their favorite shows on the air. It is only in recent years where cult shows like Lost also happen to be ratings leaders that the line between the two has started to blur.

Yet, even if fan favorites are not top ratings earners, they serve other vital interests for networks — as I suggest in Convergence Culture. They are “must see” TV at a time when appointment viewing is in decline. They tend to rank higher in terms of paid downloads or digital video recording than many shows that do better in the ratings. And early research suggests that people watching their favorite shows are more engaged with the advertising as well as the content. They are also more willing to seek out further information about the series, resulting in more touch points and a greater receptiveness to convergence-based strategies. And for lower ranked and cable networks, a strong niche audience may make or break a program.

For my current purposes, I am really talking about two different but sometimes interrelated fan communities: one mostly female and focused around the production and consumption of fan fiction and the second, mixed gender and focused on online speculation and discussion. Keep in mind that there are other possible fan communities – sports fans, soap fans, music fans, etc. who will have their own criteria and interests.

So, what kinds of shows are most apt to attract strong fan followings?

Fan Friendly Programs:

1. Focus heavily on characters and character relationships. In some cases, fans will pull secondary characters from the margins of a series if they are not interested in the central protagonists. In particular, they are looking for the following:

–Strong emotional bonds – especially partnership, mentorship, and romance (probably in that order if you are talking about the female fan writing community)

— Strong focus on the formation of alternative or utopian communities (again, this is especially true with the fanzine community).

– Intelligent characters who use their brains to solve problems

— Outside characters or characters with strong internal conflicts.

–Strong, competent, and active female characters

We can understand each of these traits as in some ways reflecting how fans see themselves and their social network. Fans see themselves as intelligent, strong, independent, socially committed, and nonconventional and they are drawn to characters who share those characteristics. They contrast themselves to what they call “mundane” viewers. These traits also reflect the genres that have emerged in fan fiction. Given the presence of a strong fan tradition about male partners becoming lovers, for example, there is a tendency for fans to be attracted towards shows that have strong partnership themes. So, a show like House meets all or most of these criteria including intelligent protagonists, a focus on friendship, romance, and mentorship, a strong sense of community, etc.

2. Focus on genre entertainment. While many fans watch realist or quality dramas (such as The West Wing) or sitcoms, these programs rarely cross over into their activities as fans. They do not generate the same level of discussion online or at cons nor do they inspire the same amount of fan fiction. Historically, organized fandom started in response to science fiction but with each new series that fits the other criteria but does not fall into the science fiction genre, the tastes of this community has broadened. So, at the moment, fan favorites can include crime dramas (Prison Break), mystery (Veronica Mars), adventure (Lost), science fiction (Battlestar: Galactica), historical drama (Rome), westerns (Deadwood), Buddy shows (Entourage), medical shows (House), etc.

3. Provides a strong sense of continuity. Even before there were fully elaborated story arcs on television, fans were inclined to read the episodes as if they formed some larger continuity. Series which rely heavily on continuity tap the collective memory of the fan community and allow them to show the kinds of mastery that comes from systematically watching a particular series. The management of continuity in turn becomes a favorite activity in online fan discussions.

4. Contain secrets or problems to be solved. Take this back to a distinction I make in my book, Convergence Culture between attractors (that is, shows that draw together like minded individuals) and activators (shows that give the fan community something to do – some roles and goals they can pursue together in relation to the content). The power of a show like Lost is that it is continually opening up new secrets, posing new mysteries, and creating new opportunities for fans to pool knowledge (see the much-discussed example of the map this season). This also accounts for how reality television programs such as Survivor, Big Brother, or American Idol find their way into the emerging fan cannon – because they offer either plenty of room for speculation between episodes or explicit opportunities for evaluation and participation.

5. Often have strong pedigrees. Shows by creators of previous fan shows (such as Abrams or Whedon) can more or less insure that their fan bases will turn out and give a first look at any new series they produced. Since part of the challenge is to produce a series that will be an attractor, this is a huge advantage going in. Despite the focus on characters within fan aesthetics, the same has not always proven to be true for actors. While there are fans for specific actors who will follow them from series to series, fans of a character may or may not be interested in something else from the same performer.

These are traits we can judge from advanced information about a series. There are other elements that are harder to read. It is not enough that a show operate within a well defined genre; it has to respect those genre conventions and satisfy the audience demands that draw them to the genre. It is not enough that characters be compelling on paper but there’s an element of chemistry that emerges as these characters are embodied by specific performers that can make or break a series.

What happens when we apply these criteria to the series announced for this fall.

First, most shows do not stand a chance of reaching this kind of committed fan viewer because they do not meet most if not all of these criteria. By my count, there are 14 shows that have the potential to be fan friendly. A surprisingly high number are explicitly comparing themselves to Lost, hoping to become mass-cult successes.

What’s striking in looking at the fall lineup is that networks have gotten the idea of continuity and serialization almost too well. Many of the series are designed to last a season or even half a season. They have plots or gimmicks that are going to be compelling in short bursts but will be hard to sustain over time. Some may go the route of 24, generating a new plot for each new season. Some will be canceled before each the first story arc runs its course. And some will make the mistake of avoiding resolution and thus drawing out a plotline well past its likely audience interest. If American television operated like British television, say, where you have a firm commitment for x number of episodes going in and then a series ends, whether or not it develops strong ratings, then we would know how to calibrate expectations about these series. But, many of them are artistic time bombs which may take off strong and then blow up in the networks’ faces as they move into season 2. Of course in a world where the vast majority of shows never make a second season, this may not be a total disaster….

If I had to pick the most likely fan favorite of the lot, I would go with Heroes, followed by Vanished, Six Degrees, Jericho and Runaways. Studio 60 is the wild card in all of this – It will certainly be watched by a large number of fans but will it motivate fanish activities. (Either way, Studio 60 is probably the new show that is going to be most eagerly awaited in my household.)

Of these shows, at this point, Heroes and Studio 60 are the only ones that are still on my Tivo. How about you?

Comments

  1. This season, I’m loving Battlestar Galactica (as ever), Doctor Who, and Heroes, which is my surprise pickup for the year. I’m really enjoying it, particularly for its unashamed embrace of comic book aesthetics. I’m also hanging onto Torchwood (the Doctor Who spinoff) in the mad hope that it will get at least a little bit less dorky. We’ll see.

    I gave up on Studio 60 due to the racism, the sexism, the fanbashing, the airing of Aaron Sorkin’s personal issues, and oh yeah, the near-total lack of funny.

  2. The most recent new show that grabbed my fannish attention was Eureka. I wasn’t expecting to watch it, but after happening upon it, it grabbed me immediately with its sense of fun and *fabulous* characterization.

    Eureka is a show whose writers actually understand the idea of building up a character gradually, giving you details a bit at a time. I could go on for hours about the way they built up the importance of a baseball bat to the hero, so that when he picked it up near the end of the season to hit something, you understood how important that was.

    My other two new shows are British: Torchwood and Robin Hood.

  3. Supernatural. Definitely.

    It’s such an amazing show. Every week is like a new little horror movie that, most times, is really quite frightening. But that’s not what really drives it. The true strength of Supernatural lies in the absolutely touching family ties and brotherly love exibited every episode by Sam and Dean.

    It’s a truly refreshing show that has unfortunatley recieved too little exposure. In a time when television is saturated with “reality shows” and soap operas, Supernatural is a much appreciated breath of fresh air.

  4. Supernatural on the CW [Thursdays @ 9/8c] is the most fan friendly and highly underrated show on.

    It fits every category you set forth. The tight brotherly bond, driven by the love of their father is what keeps the fans coming back. The lore [hellhounds, demons, vamps, wendigos] keeps the fans sticking around for more and a crossover from the [Joss]Whedonverse thrills us! Each week a new puzzle piece is put down in the mystery of their family’s trials and tribulations and we LOVE Eric Kripke for such a great show.

  5. I wound up being asked by Nielsen to keep a TV diary last week for sweeps, which made me take a look at my TV viewing.

    Of the new shows I’ve watched, Heros by far held my attention the most. I currently not only DVR it, but have not deleted a single episode yet (I watch studio 60, but don’t mind if I miss it).

    Of new things I have not yet seen, the one I most want to see, and have seen the most buzz about is Torchwood, the Dr. Who spinoff (and I’ve been quite impressed by the new Who, the other program I make sure to not miss).

  6. One of my favourite shows – Life on Mars, a British cross-genre program, is a ratings winner in Britain, has aired to good ratings on BBC America, and is currently airing on Showcase in Canada.

    It’s about DCI Sam Tyler, a man who ‘has an accident’ in 2006 and wakes up in 1973, where he is forced to live as a DI under DCI Gene Hunt and is confronted by the ‘backwards’ policing of 1970s Manchester.

    It falls into the different categories you have delineated here – it is character driven – with fantastic chemistry between the two male leads (John Simm and Philip Glenister), it combines the Sci-Fi and Cop Show genres, it certainly provides a strong sense of continuity and revolves around a very large mystery – is Sam Tyler in a coma, has he really travelled back in time, or is it both of these things? Lastly, the program is critically acclaimed.

    Yet, and this is where confusion steps in – despite the fact several fans of various other shows have watched Life on Mars and like it a lot, they do not contribute much to the fannish community. The fandom is very quiet.

    Perhaps the difference lies in knowing that the show is going to finish with the second series. However, I would argue that the risk of this happening is always present with new shows – and yet they manage to foster cult fandoms.

    As much as you try to predict what will be a hit among fans, and there are definitely some markers which make this easier, there are always going to be anomalies.

  7. The only new shows I’m watching this fall are Heroes and Ugly Betty.

    While I haven’t quite delved into the fan communities for Heroes actively, I’ve started to scout them. It still feels a little early in the series to get too involved fannishly.

    I’ve also noticed that while the serial aspect is one reason I love the show, and make sure to catch it every week, it’s making me hesitate to look in on the fanfiction being written, since I know so much of it will be jossed the next week.

    Ugly Betty has nearly no interest for me online, but I’m still enjoying the show. It’s one of the few shows I’ve actually watched at all in the past few years without an online focus for me.

  8. Veronica Mars is so awesome. I missed her between seasons, and while season 3 isn’t exactly the high caliber murder mystery the first two seasons were, the new characters and the play between the actors has been fantastic. Then there’s the not so surprisingly great Heroes (every week something makes me shreik out loud), and Maerica Ferrera’s Ugly Betty, whom you can’t help but laugh at and laugh with at the same time.

    Skeet Ulrich offends me on a visceral level for some reason. I have a tendency to dry heave at the thought of Jericho.

    After that it’s just a bunch of animé that I’ve bittorrented and have yet to catch up on… ‘cept Ghost in the Shell 2nd, that was totally worth plowing through.

  9. Heroes, definitely. Interest is strong and growing. The twists at the end of almost every episode are great, and the rumored Casting Spoiler, if true, will only increase the appeal. I’m loving it. (There are already a few vids for Heroes, and that is the only new show where that is true AFAIK).

    Studio 60 is on the fence, with me and with many other people. Aaron’s Issues are all over every episode, the skits aren’t funny, and while I like the Danny/Matt relationship, there’s been little shared screentime recently. The supporting cast is good, the show would not have lasted this long without the wonderful performance every week by Matt Perry, but the show is going to sink or swim based on the writing: the sketches have to be funny, or we have to see less of them, and Sorkin has to get off his soap box and start writing the characters and not using them as mouth-pieces every.single.week.

    I watched the first ep of Six Degrees but found it slow going. Heroes is doing the “random strangers are all connected” thing better, and it *feels* like the new J.J. Abrams show, even though it isn’t.

    I personally never checked out Runaways or or Jericho. Jericho has a small following among friends who like the post-apocalyptic aspect, but they are getting frustrated with it / finding it unbelievable.

    I had to check wikipedia to remember which one-word-title crime show Justice is … I just call it the new Victor Garber show. The pro-VG sentiment was for me (and I suspect some others) curtailed by the under-enthusiastic response to Kerr Smith. I enjoyed Erin Daniels showing up, but wouldn’t this show be better with Gina Torres? She’s underused on Stand-off.

    Vanished pissed some people off by killing a character; several people I know stopped watching because the actor was the only draw.

  10. *delurking*

    I started off Tivoing almost everything new this season…gave up on Six Degrees within a couple of weeks. The premise sounded interesting, but in practice, it was just too scattershot. Vanished had me only mildly intrigued before the baseball hiatus, and I haven’t watched it since (though I do have the eps recorded). Jericho I like, but at a sort of “oh, there’s nothing else I want to watch left on the Tivo” sort of way. Outside of the ones you mentioned: I have really been enjoying The Nine a lot more than I expected to. But I agree with you, Heroes is the best of the new shows this year, and I enjoy Studio 60 a lot, too. Makes me miss Sports Night, though. I hear Studio 60 is close to cancellation, though. :(

    I think you make an excellent point regarding the dangers of the type of continuity arc the networks are jumping on lately. They’re mini-series plots, not multi-season-ready plots. Plus, the total reliance on a continuous story (e.g. 24) makes each episode less valuable individually. I can’t imagine thinking, you know, I really want to watch episode 2×14 (or whatever) of 24 again, the way I constantly want to revisit individual episodes of Buffy or Firefly or Veronica Mars. The ability to balance seasonal arcs, series arcs, and episode arcs so that each episode is valuable individually and in sequence is, IMO, one of the hallmarks of a truly great show.

  11. You’re dead on for me. “Heroes” and “Studio 60″ both prove what can happen when a network is down on its luck–it takes chances on wild card programming. (Oh, for the days when FOX was a young network.) The result has been great for viewers like me.

  12. Not to skip right over the shows you’re probably talking about, but I think the most fannishly interesting show on right now isn’t on American TV. I think Torchwood is definitely hitting all the right (and some of the wrong) fandom notes at the moment. It’s the bastard child of Doctor Who and The X-Files, and I think Angel might’ve been the resulting offspring’s stepparent. Really, it has all of the marks of media designed to foster a truly fanatical following.

    There’s certainly the pedigree, coming as it does from Russel T. Davies and his lot of Who folk. There’s a built-in audience of Who-fans right there, who are watching as much for the small references to DW scattered all around as they are for the plot.

    Hell, who needs plot? Five gorgeous people as super-secret government agents protecting the world against alien threats sounds keen, doesn’t it? Five pretty, troubled, angsty people, at that, all with flaws and some with dark, angsty pasts that are coming out bit by bit in each episode. The episodes so far have hardly been about the alien threats, though – they’re mostly about how the characters interact, from innuendo-laden conversations to angsting over perceived betrayal. They’re all explicitly torn between having a real life and their work, particularly sweet-but-competent cop Gwen Cooper, their newest recruit.

    Still, there’s enough science-fiction (heavy on the fiction) to make it genre fun – human-robot hybrids, ghosts, and even aliens who kill with sex. Then there’s secrets aplenty for fans to think about for protagonist Jack Harkness. Even though viewers know a lot about Jack’s mysterious past and abililties because of Who, there’s endless fan speculation about how he got from where we last saw him in that show to present-day Cardiff, not to mention what he knows or doesn’t know about what’s been going on with The Doctor since he left and how their reunion (supposedly in the next season of DW) will go. Viewers get to empathize with Jack’s coworkers who are curious about his past, while also knowing more than they do by a longshot.

    By my count the show more than fulfills each of the criteria you mention for fan-friendly programming, and it’s certainly seemed to attract one.

    The canonical bisexuality of the main character doesn’t hurt in the fanfiction department, either. Within the first few episodes there were same-sex kisses and flirting along with the requisite “adult show” levels of heterosexual innuendo and lip-locking.

    All in all, it’s fertile fannish ground to play in. While the first few episodes were uneven and I think the show is still struggling to find it’s feet, it’s more interesting to me than any other new show on TV, possibly because it’s so obviously created with a fannish audience in mind.

  13. I want to Pimp Supernatural because, well, I am currently fanning it hardcore and am absolutely in love with the (creative, or ‘female’, as you note) fandom and the wacky things it does, but it doesn’t quite fit the ‘new this season’ criteria.

    That said, it fits all the Fan Friendly criteria, extremely comfortably – and one of the things that is so fabulous about the second season that we’re 8 episodes into now is being able to see just how ‘fan friendly’ Supernatural really is. It’s fascinating to look at how it fits both into that creative (female) fandom space as well as the ‘speculation and discussion’ space. Supernatural is essentially pomo horror for the small screen; its production by (and for!) horror fans is something that it clearly revels in (as well as exploring within its diegesis!).

    Academically speaking, I get great joy out of reading what Supernatural has to say about fans, both thematically and through its construction. For me, being in the creative fandom for it, it’s drawn these new connections between these different fandom spaces – the knowledge communities of horror connoisseurs (a la Hills’ Pleasures of Horror), and the creative fans who are going crazy over the intimacy allowed by the familial relationship between the show’s buddy pair.

    I suppose I could talk about how the Fan Friendly criteria fits or doesn’t fit to Supernatural as the second season is going on, especially in relation to gendered characters but, well, tangent.

    I find it interesting that you mention Lost so many times in this post when it’s in conjunction to the Provides a strong sense of continuity and Contain secrets or problems to be solved. criteria. One of the reasons I gave up on lost in the early days was because of the fact that apparently the writers of Lost didn’t actually have plans for where the show was headed – throwing in random plot points, manipulating audiences with cliffhangers that went no where. And I guess it comes down to that manipulation… I know a considerable amount of fans who abandoned Lost due to the fact that they felt they were being disrespected and manipulated by the creators. I find it hard to have faith in Lost to take care of itself and fulfil my fannish needs, in the end. If I’m going to love a show, I’m going to need to know that the characters I love aren’t considered cannon (canon?) fodder!

    I am loving Heroes but am feeling slightly wary about it at the moment, because its structure/momentum is starting to remind me of Lost. I felt the first few episodes had wonderful momentum and synergy between the different threads and characters; for the last few episodes, though, I found it lacking. Cliffhangers characters had been left on the previous week were seemingly non-existent. Some other characters were completely ignored. Not enough quality time was spent on the characters who were shown. It felt like nothing really happened. Is Heroes turning into Lost? just an endless proliferation of cliffhangers and manipulation to keep people watching? So much happened in the first few episodes, setting up things with such a dynamic construction. Will we have to wait until the end of the season before something does actually happen (and then, will it be a cliffhanger?).

    The other new show I’m watching this season is Showtime’s Dexter. I am definitely not usually a fan of your ‘realist’ kind of shows (medical, crime or law dramas), but the quirks of the main character have kept me watching (plus, following Michael C Hall over from Six Feet Under helps). But I don’t think I’ll be getting involved in any creative fandom for Dexter (unless it’s to write crossovers).

    In terms of international readers – well, I am one. One of the reasons I’m only really watching three currently-aired TV shows at the moment (Supernatural, Dexter & Heroes) is because I can’t really afford the broadband bandwidth to download any more than three episodes (and a handful of songvids and YouTube views!) a week.

    I can’t recommend any Australian TV because I don’t watch TV on TV. I just can’t – I cannot stand not only the advertising (both of the show that I’m watching, and the advertising during the show!), but not being in control of the conditions of my viewing. I need to be able to watch what I want, when I want; be able to stop, select scenes, clip and capture and slow down the frame rate, separate audio and video and transfer to different media or texts.

    Also, it is pretty much impossible to be involved in a fandom if you’re not consuming its source material at the same time as the rest of your peers. I’d estimate that about 60% of the Supernatural fandom downloads episodes either as well as or rather than watching it as it airs on The CW network in the USA. It has quite a large international fanbase, from what I can tell, and yeah – it’s pretty impossible to be involved in (creative) fandom unless you’re watching the show at the same time as everyone else. In my experience, anyway!

    I just wish that the networks/industry would get around to realising the value of multiplatform release – I would be more than willing to pay several dollars a week to download my favourite TV show(s), both to make legitimate my viewing of it (because really, who does media piracy because they really want to be a pirate? and also, my consumption would be counted), and to support the continued production of the show. I have no doubt a whole lot of fans would happily follow this path as well. When are we going to get to legitimately download TV episodes like we can download music tracks? But globally? (iTunes store, for example, will not accept intl credit card numbers).

    In relation to ratings as well, it’s really frustrating me that I can’t find it now, but in a newspaper here (www.theaustralian.news.com.au) there was a piece about an agency that was undertaking a new form of ratings research – rather than the monitoring of particular households that result in a (somewhat skewed) cross-section of viewing practices, the agency contacted a number of people seeemingly at random via email to ask about what shows they thought were good and liked watching. It seemed a form that took into account the fact that not everyone has a ratings box attached to their TV, let alone watched their television on their TV! At any rate, I really need to track that article down…

    As a quick last aside, I find it interesting the Jericho has tried something new with its simultaneous international release. From what I’ve heard from local fans, it’s nothing to write home about, so I haven’t bothered watching it. Other local fans I know haven’t bothered watching it because it’s airing simultaneously – more often than not, I discover new shows because peers and friends in my fan communities tend to have the same taste as me, so if they are raving about something, I’ll check it out. Because US fans haven’t seen Jericho already, I can’t go out there and find out if it’s good or not. I just have to watch it. And I’m not willing to sit in front of a television/put up with advertising to do that!

    As another aside, in terms of being ‘counted’ as a viewer of TV on a global scale, I think it’s fascinating the way that fan/producer dynamic has changed particularly after the Firefly/Serenity ‘Browncoats’. As a Browncoat myself, it was wonderful to be able to actually make a difference in whether my text was continued – the international sale of DVDs (or, you know, I could purchase box sets from US Amazon.com), of movie tickets, etc. With the Browncoats doco (www.donetheimpossible.com), it’s really clear to see that those barriers between fans and produces of texts are really breaking down – producers are seemingly starting to actually realise the value of working on the same level as fans! (This is certainly the case with Supernatural.) ‘Interestingly’ enough, then – Universal has recently sued a bunch of Browncoats for violating copyright with their viral marketing (http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20061029/230025.shtml). (Some have responded by invoicing Universal for time and materials used in their fan-level advertising campaigns.)

    But, possibly that is enough tangent for now.

  14. Wow, I’ve never read you’re blog before but I loved it. I am an avid TV watcher and never really put much thought into why I like the shows I like before, thanks for laying it out for me! You hit it spot on. Especially with my favorite sophomore show of choice Supernatural, which has a very active fan base but low ratings. Out of the new shows this season I would choose Heroes, of all the new shows this fall it is the only one I’ve stuck with.

  15. The show I want to pimp is Supernatural. Sure it’s in season two, but it wasn’t until this season that the fandom for it blew up into a huge, intense thing. And it meets your criteria too:

    1. Focus heavily on characters and character relationships.

    Oh so very much yes. Supernatural is all about the relationship between Sam and Dean and their father. It’s one gloriously angsty affair that just breaks our hearts and leaves us begging for more.

    2. Focus on genre entertainment.

    Yes here too. It’s billed as a “horror movie a week” sort of show. Usually the focus is on American urban legends: Bloody Mary, Hookman, etc. They’ve also got the ghosts, vampires, demons and exotic things like Wendigos and Rakshasas. The brothers’ job is to hunt and kill the evil things, saving people.

    3. Provides a strong sense of continuity.

    Again, we have a winner. Little things that seem to be throwaway lines or events at first, come back to bite the characters in the ass later. In season one, Dean was under suspicion for murder when a shape shifter impersonated him. Season two, Dean gets caught by the cops and has to deal with some of the consequences for that. And that’s just the surface.

    4. Contain secrets or problems to be solved.

    Oh boy, does it ever! Sam’s mom was killed when he was six months old. Some other kids that year, and later, had the same thing happen. But later, when Sam was grown, his girlfriend got torched on the ceiling just like Mom did. Why would the demon attack both mothers of six-month-olds and Sam’s girlfriend? Oh, and why (as we later find out) were some of the mothers of kids the demon was after not killed? So many questions.

    5. Often have strong pedigrees.

    Here too. Jensen Ackles (Dean) was on two previous genre shows (Smallville and Dark Angel). And the behind the scenes people have even more ties to fan favourites of the past: Kim Manners, David Nutter, and John Shiban to name a few.

    So I say, if you haven’t seen Supernatural, you’re missing out. It’s smart, funny and full of things that fans adore.

  16. Coming from the UK:

    The big one here has obviously been Torchwood. Other than the totally shallow reasons (Captain Jack fast becoming one of the new big sci-fi icons), the intertextual nature of it just appeals. It isn’t just the Dr Who spin-off aspect (which obviously pulled a lot of fans in), but the fan(fic) cliches and plots. We have actually started playing ‘Torchwood Bingo’ by making a list of fan fiction cliches and things we have spotted as repetative themes and motifs and using that to generate a bingo card (for anyone wanting to play you can sign up at http://community.livejournal.com/tw_declassified/). And it is just so nice to feel that it is a show that is just possibly aimed at the fangirl demographic :-) I think the last time I saw so many of my fan-friends squeeing about the new shiny was Firefly. Ianto (sort of secondary character) seems to be shaping up as one of the fav characters along with Jack (especially ‘along’ with Jack ;-)). We are now waiting to hear if a second season is going to happen *cross fingers*.

    (I better stop now or I will end up writing an essay rather than a comment)

    The other big show the BBC tried to push was Robin Hood – but it doesn’t seem to have grabbed people (I don’t know anyone who wasn’t disappointed in it). The big problem they had to face was that they had so much to live up to. The Hooded Man version of Robin Hood was so iconographic and wonderful in its Brit-pride, neo-pagan, campy goodness that the bar was set very high and the new show didn’t add anything other than unsubtle (and very clunky) social commentary which didn’t work very well.

    Also been seeing a lot of new interest in Holby City (long running medical drama/soap) recently due to one of the popular Highlander actors joining the cast. Not really a new show but intresting from the perspective of the actor fandom, Highlander and Holby not really having that much in common (nor that much fanbase crossover) normally.

    Christmas specials to look forward to – Dr Who and Hogfather are most likely to be the big two this year.

    Import-wise: Heros and Studio 60 seem to be the big two that have made it across the pond before officially showing over here. We are also waiting to see how badly the US mangles Life on Mars now there is a US version in the works.

  17. I have to cast my vote for Supernatural. Fantasy genre, has a great hook (urban legends); two strong, aesthetically pleasing, bonded male leads; what looks to be a series-long arc; and has spawned more fanfic and vids than any show I’ve seen since Buffy–and Supernatural has aired only 30 episodes so far. Also? *continuity* I love it when a showrunner appreciates that fans keep up. Great pop culture references throughout as well–nods to Star Wars and Spinal Tap in the same ep? AWESOME.

    I had been looking forward to Torchwood, but so far, I’ve been disappointed.

  18. a.a.johnston says:

    I’m going to echo the shout-outs for Supernatural, which pretty much fulfills your 5 point criteria as far as, well, everything as other posters have pointed out. It’s got a strong buddy dynamic, either in spite of or because of the fact that the leads are brothers. It’s got a lovely mix of an overall mytharc as well as standalone bits and episodes. It plays to both horror and the SF genre (which gives it a kind of nice dark-fantasy patina to it. Ages well, looks great as a centerpiece.) It plays strongly to American folklore but with enough world myth to keep it from being just another ghost story.

    There’s a solid enough emotional core to keep people invested in the characters and yet enough gaps in the narrative to let the fans build their own extended mythology and explore bit and pieces that the show can’t or won’t.

    It’s not great art, but it is great entertainment which really, as a fan, is what I want most.

  19. We have five don’t-miss shows at our house this fall, which is pretty incredible, really. My S.O. and I both tune in every week for Supernatural, and it seems to have cross-gender appeal, at least in our house. I’m hooked hard on it for all the reasons previous posters mentioned, but primarily for the family relationships and the intense mythology. The boy of the house seems to show up mainly for the snark factor, which entertains him greatly.

    My other current obsession is the NBC ratings underdog, Friday Night Lights. The writing is brilliant and true, the look of the show is gorgeous, but most of all, it’s full of likeable and real characters with intense, genuine relationships. There’s even an awesome, normal, fascinating married couple, with a kid — on TV! The S.O. watches this one, too, but he isn’t a football fan so I think he’s mostly showing up for the beautiful, appealing women. I can’t blame him.

    As for his must-see shows, he seems to be hooked hardest on Heroes. He’s still watching Battlestar Galactica, and he seems to like Jericho quite a bit, too. Of the three, Heroes interests me the most. I’m waiting to see if it develops further, in terms of character relationships and conflicts. We’re still half-heartedly watching Lost, but Veronica Mars seems to have fallen off our radar, with more choices on the roster.

  20. I’d like to Pimp Supernatural on the CW. Eric Kripke has created a marvelous show that beautifully balances a demon hunting and other supernatural activity, family issues, and two brothers with a very complex bond. It has classic rock music as the soundtrack, a gorgeous 67 Chevy Impala, Kim Manners (x-files) as a frequent director, and two brilliant actors that definitely more than pretty boys.

    Jensen Ackles plays the cocky, bad ass older brother Dean, who is fiercely devoted to his kid brother and desperately wants his family together again. This season Jensen has played the tormented Dean to superb perfection, evoking the guilt and despair over his father’s actions to save his life.

    Jared Padalecki shines as Sam, the younger, rebellious brother who wanted out of the family business but got dragged back in after his girlfriend died. This season he’s stepped it up as the sensitive brother who’s devloping pyschic gifts and coming to terms with his destiny. He’s also struggling to keep Dean together, knowing his big brother is beginning to crack.

    The humor in the show is priceless, and Jensen and Jared are amazingly believable as brothers. They tease each other, prank each other, Dean torments Sam as abeing a “good boy” while he’s out hustling pool and picking up chicks.

    This season kicks it a notch higher with Dean now listed in the FBI wanted database (he didn’t do it). There are also other Hunters now coming onto the scene, and not all of them are nice.

    This show is ignored by the CW marketing campaign but it’s only in its second season and has the potential to run as long as Smallville. Jensen in particular should recieve an Emmy nod for his work in the first four eps this season.

    The shows ratings are mediocra only because it goes up agaisnt the powerhouses of CSI and Gray’s Anatomy, but they still bring in respectable numbers. Given better promotion, this show would be a huge hit. (The CW is also not available in all markets, which hurts).These boys and Supernatural truly deserve some recognition.

  21. Well considering the criteria you laid out, I would say Supernatural is definately the one show you should try. Great writing, the acting is by far some of the best I’ve ever seen on tv, multi-layered characters, strong women characters, it actually has a plot. It’s fantastic, critically acclaimed and a gem.

  22. Dina Lerret says:

    I’ve been in the online fandom community for a decade and recognize some fan names here. :-) Some are fans of shows I’m not into but we share video editing experiences and have met at fan conventions.

    No doubt, Heroes will be a strong contender because it… taps into the media [circus] involving the political-social unrest and finding ‘heroes’ in unexpected places has always been an idealization.

    While I have caught some episodes of Heroes, I’ve become enamored with Supernatural. This also has an aspect of ‘heroic’ activities, but it also taps into the definition of ‘anti-hero’ because the protagonists, the Winchesters, frequently operate off their own beliefs in morality (e.g. ends justify the means) in order to save lives.

    Wisely, the WB (now CW) moved Supernatural to follow one of its ‘popular’ series, Smallville, to draw in the fanbase. However, the competitive timeslot against Grey’s Anatomy and CSI have heavily impacted Supernatural’s possibility to draw in viewers, plus, the network has limited cable company carriers. What makes Supernatural admirable from a ratings standpoint, as an underdog, is that it’s still holding a respectable sized fanbase and that base is still growing especially via online communities and… unorthodox means of keeping the US and international viewers up-to-date with the series.

    The creator and one of the series writers, Eric Kripke, also keeps tabs on the SPN fanbase and may make some adjustments according to fan sway, which attracts fans to go that extra mile of wanting to ‘pimp’ the series. As a slash fan/writer/vidder, at first glance, it might seem like I wouldn’t find much context to ‘slash’ but pair together two attractive actors, who have exceptional onscreen and offscreen chemistry that journalists also remark on–as human constants in a ‘microcosm’ situation of motels and car trips and it can make the recipe for slash. Kripke may have intended the homosexual innuendoes on the show as jokes while ‘canon’ instilled a public facade of heterosexuality on the protagonists, some slash fans/writers particularly appreciated those ‘jokes’ in addition to the subtext the series inherently provides because of the strong sense of partnership between Winchester men, especially the brothers, Dean and Sam. While canon can logically explain the bonds as familial, an entire evolution of fandom speculation is willing to explore ‘taboo’ aspects… in this case, incest. “Wincest” has become so popular, even Kripke is aware of this slash phenomenon.

    You had referenced certain ‘criteria’ for shows to attract a strong fanbase and I believe Supernatural fits. I could expand on this comment but I think other SPN fans are going to step up and elaborate… probably confirm the point of ‘strong fanbase’. :-)

    Dina

  23. Battlestar Galactica and Heroes are the must-see shows that I (as a fan) and my husband (as a media buff) are obsessed with at the moment. BSG is a good ensemble show that focuses on relationships while creating some excellent science fiction to boot. They’re having a little trouble occasionally melding the two – they have interpersonal dialogue that occasionally makes me roll my eyes and they handwave some of the basic sci-fi premises in a way that occasionally angers me – but for the most part it’s gripping, gritty, edgy, and very worthwhile. Also often violent and dark, which is not usually my thing.

    Heroes is very promising – an ensemble show built around a comic-book style narrative with a character (Hiro) all fans can’t help but love and many others who are various types of interesting. Almost a pre-Xavier X-Men premise, what life might have been like at the beginning of the mutations. Just ordinary people finding they can do extraordinary things, with an interesting and complex arc so far. Funny, endearing, engaging, suspenseful. My favorite currently airing show, for sure.

    I also watch Dr. Who, House, and Supernatural, but mostly to keep up with what other fans are talking about, at this point. Torchwood is interesting (I download from other fans to watch it)but I’m not obsessed the way I was about the first season of Who (#9, 2005).

    Interestingly enough, these are NOT my primary fanfiction shows – that is, I read far more fanfiction (and far more fanfiction exists) for other shows, Stargate:Atlantis and Supernatural currently being the largest. I love BSG and Heroes just the way they are – I don’t feel the need to “fix” anything or pair folks off really (though I’ve written some tiny BSG AU stories, as we discussed, that actually were remarkably similar to some of what ended up happening in early S3). This is something I see happening with other fans, too – a lot of us WATCH BSG, Who, and Heroes, and talk about them, but fewer are writing fanfiction for them.

    Lastly, you mentioned Lost – I saw it on that list of shows aca/fans are loving that you posted a while back and wondered at that. I’ve never watched it myself, but I know that everyone I knew in fandom seemed to be fascinated…for about the first season and a half, and I haven’t heard a peep about it on LiveJournal (which is where most fanfiction fans live) since. It lost most of that sector of fandom, even though they loved it at first, so I think it must have done something fannishly “wrong”.

  24. Ha! And I’m also watching Studio 60, but I forgot to even mention it, which I think tells you everything you need to know about how that is going.

  25. I abandoned LOST after season one, in the sense that I’m still watching it, but casually, just to know what else they have come up with. LOST has ‘lost’ it (I’m queen of bad puns) for me when they decided that their mystery/puzzle in fact had so many more pieces than those the audience were led to believe. The show’s narrative trajectory is ever expanding in circles, and I’m not willing to be led by them in that way, blindly. If I buy a puzzle with 500 pieces, I don’t expect to find a note in the box that says “Oh, btw, this puzzle may not be completed by 500 pieces, you need now to acquire box b and box c and box d, etc etc.”

    Yes, I grew affectionate to some of the characters, and it’s still probably one of the best shows out there, but I don’t see a structure if not an ever expanding one as long as there is money in the budget.

    HEROES is fascinating to me for the willingly visually intriguing reproduction of the comics aesthetics (see for example the titles and the paintings), and the equally interesting translation of comic heroes characters into tv characters (especially in comparison with Smallville, who had to deal with it and has apparently chosen the teen-angst resolution instead).

    I’m watching Heroes faithfully because Hiro is such a genuine honest character (as opposed to practically all the others), and the plot is intriguing enough (note: contrary to LOST’s ever-diverging and multiplying plot, Heroes’ plot seems to have a precise structure, different paths converging for a precise scope, that is, ‘Saving the World’.)

    DEXTER is thankfully different from what is out there: a truly distorted and dysfunctional character, however perfectly inserted and functional in a social environment. Due to its subject matter (a serial killer who only kills serials killers), I doubt it’ll ever gain huge following (people are squeamish when violence isn’t glamorous and/or glossyfied), but the acting, direction, photography, editing are quite excellent.

    I truly see it ending like OZ did, a great, socially critical and character-study deep show with little acknowledgment.

    The Unit is another show I’m following closely, beginning its second series. It’s been rightly defined as a ‘crack’ show, as we fans (and the acafen among us) define something that you do watch, even though its implausibility is very high, and so is its ‘cheese’ factor. The Unit mixture of home scenes as opposed to combat scene (the home front and the war front as it is) is so ripe for being critically torn to shreds that one has to wonder whether it isn’t a willing choice. However, each episode poses questions about morality, ethics, loyalty, and the answers are not as clear as they seem to be. Solid cast, very good photography, and crack writing. It becomes quickly addictive.

    Finally, the one show that has already a well organized and prolific fandom: Supernatural. I’ve read other comments above about it, so instead I’ll paste here what I wrote about it on the 13 of APril 2006:

    Supernatural: why it Rocks so much and why it could really become big if the production/writers/CW don’t mess it up

    The Mythology

    Buffy’s writers had to come up with ‘original’ ideas, ie. clever reworkings of the classic Good vs. Evil fight (and ended up making it apocalyptic. A few times). SPN’s writers have enough Urban Legends in the US to last for a handful of season, without mentioning all the legends available in the rest of the world. The mythology doesn’t need to be made up, because it’s already here, connecting the audience to the show less by way of teen angst then by the fear of the creepy things out there, or better, the creepy things that have been coming out of people’s imagination since ever.

    The Arch Storyline

    John Winchester – reversing a cycle that has been going since the late 70’s in US films and TV, that of the absent father (E.T. anyone?) – is made into a mythical figure himself. An apparently legendary hunter whose choices have shaped the boys in what they are, for good and bad, with his flaws and virtues: by choosing to hunt down and kill the Demon that murdered his wife Mary, John serves as the moving force behind the whole narrative. The story will end once the Demon is killed, I have no doubt about it, and that will happen hopefully as later as possible (I vote for five series!)

    The arch narrative is threaded all throughout the first season, picked up in some episodes and just mentioned in others, but it’s what gives the series a fundamental unity and reason d’eitre.

    The Family Issues

    Last US TV series (that I remember) that had two brothers united in a mission that would make them forget their differences was The Quest. John, Sam and Dean are a dysfunctional family, and so intriguing with it that all the exchanges they have about their family issues have us fan(girls, mostly, I think) squee in delight. They all have a definite character, differences and similarities quite cleverly written and filmed (the way Dean and John move, the way in which John and Sam say the same words, etc). The feelings implied in looking out for each other not only as fellow hunters but as a family make the tension in the fighting/dangerous scenes raise up a notch. We want to see Sam telling it all to his father, we want to see what Dean would do, who would he side with, we want to see John worried about his boys. In short, we want to see MEN EMOTE for each other, and the family ties allow for a narrative that can play with this insted of justifying it.

    The Leads

    THE ACTORS: easy to see, they are good looking. Youngish, but not teens, with enough acting experience under their belt to be up to carry the show on their shoulders, and luckily for us, for them, for the series, they do have a certain chemistry that works well on screen. Which brings the fans minds deep in the gutter of fanfiction hell in so many ways, but hey, it’s just fiction.

    THE CHARACTERS: the more we get into the series, the more we come to know the different layers to each character. They are apparently opposite, but enough well matched so to cather to a wide audience. We have the more serious one, and the more laid back one. The tough one that doesn’t open up much and the intellectual one that mulls over issues, and so on. The writers have already established, in Shadow, that the brothers DO want something completely different…which leaves us with a big question mark at the end, to see how this will be resolved.

    The Music

    Ahhhh, the music. […]..it’s not POP music! Which I have nothing against, personally, but to hear rock tracks, and classic tracks at that: it makes a big difference. It impacts on the audience in a different way, and it enriches the characters and the scenes, it gives the whole a rhythm and a edge definitely lacking in (most of) contemporary pop music.

    The Gadgets and Cars

    Well, like any crime/thrilling TV series that wants to be remembered, they have a distinctive car: the Impala. Who isn’t in love with the Impala, raise their hand! (think of the Striped Tomato for S&H, the Capris for The Professionals, Bond’s car, etc etc. Sometimes it’s not a car, ie. Kojac’s lollipop).

    Plus, we have the EMF, beeping and crackling its way around haunted houses, a box choc-full of fake IDs, the Impala’s trunk filled with weapons of all kinds, blades and ammo and guns and what have you, and last but not least, the boys ‘dressing up’ as rangers, feds, security services, priests and who knows what else :)

    The Iconography and the Libraries

    Strictly connected with the mythology, knowledge is really important in this show (as already presented in Buffy, esp. season 1 and 2), and brought to a whole new level, where geekitude and libraries’ frequentation is not just funny, but where obsessive research and the knowledge of useless trivia can save the day…what fan isn’t obsessive in that way? The iconography of the sygils, spells, symbols, monsters (and I include here the old newspapers clips, the drawings on the walls, the ugly paintings, the mirrors, etc etc) enriches the visuals and aesthetics of the knowledge the characters and the audience acquire during any given episode, making it more complete.

    The Net and Cell phones

    Cell phones made legendary by the eternal ‘Scully?’ ‘Mulder?’ ‘Where are you’ are back with a vengeance, complete with email and incredible powerful satellites, since they almost always pick up…plus they double up as paranormal activity revealers, which is always useful. Along with the use of a laptop, these two elements alone turn part of the show into something we can all experience daily, therefore making a bigger connection with the audience, with them just being daily objects for most of us, and by the clever use of interactive narrative, ie, the Hellhounds website, mentioned in the series and being an actual website that we can browse, thus allowing the audience to identify with Sam and Dean and their research.

    The Ghostbusters

    Will they reappear? I think so. A self-aware wink at Buffy, at fans, at that televisual (and not only) popular culture that surrounds us – like the mention of the Da Vinci Code (book and film) in Provenance, which again tries to strenghten the illusion of reality the show looks for, just like the use of real Urban Legends.

    Sex and Love and Action

    Ah, well…we get a little or a lot of both. Again, since the characters ages are past their 20s, we are mercifully spared the constant love interest teenangst, but it doesn’t mean we don’t get to see our heroes deal with its slightly more adult equivalent: Dean calls it fun, and then we discover he fell for Cassie, Sam lost Jessica and opened up his heart to Sarah, John…John still wears his wife’s wedding ring 22 years after her death, and I just can’t imagine what love means to him anymore, apart from the love he has for his boys. So, we get lots of action, killer trucks racing the Impala, fighting against monsters and ghosts in various ways, B&E, Sam in a cage, Dean tied up, bars with to-be-picked-up girls, love stories – although pay attention to the classic ‘a woman around makes the man grow up and stop playing, so they can’t stop with anyone, really, and all women in their life will have to stand apart or die’ for the sake of the narrative. But, the heroes stay available for the audience’s fantasies.

    At the same time, there’s enough fighting and goryness and running around that the male part of the audience should be satisfied (I’m hereby reporting what are the usual cliches/beliefs re: audience most common in Hollywood. I have no doubts that girls like action as much as boys, myself).

    The Mythology II

    Not only the show has a mythology in the Urban Legends, but we’ve been given glimpses into the Winchesters mythology, too. John Winchester has friends who are aware of what he does and why, so there is a network of hunters, even if not yet explicity identified as that (but several fan writers have already done that leap). Dean and Sam also are leaving behind them people that ‘know’ what really goes on in the dark, and that means a wealth of characters and informations and safe houses, resources in the making. It means a wider background story for the family, including flashbacks. There are important events that have shaped our heroes as we get to know them now, and the show is giving us those as well.

    The Mystery

    Well, that’s kind of obvious, but….why the Demon killed Mary? And Jess? In that way? It was because of Sam? What are Sam’s powers about? We all want to know these answers, and that it’s one of the reasons we keep watching :) I think that they have a nice balance between the Monster of the Week and the overall mythology, there isn’t a single episode that doesn’t give us some little information more, either about the family dynamic, or the relationship between the brothers, what they feel about themselves, about John, about this life and the future, or about the main storyline.

    The Merchandise

    I for one am hoping that we will get little models of the Impala, action figures of the Winchesters, a Monster&Urban Legends Mythology Book Companion, DVDs bloopers and extras and commentaries and all the usual merchandise.

    One other important element, terribly ‘mythological’ in itself and culturally significant for the States: the Travelling Narrative.

    In the best tradition, literary and film-wise, our heroes travel all across the States, and the travelling itself becomes a metaphore/can be read as a metaphore, of the search for justice, for balance, for identity, for family unity, and so on.

    It’s quite easy to see, from the above, which show has claimed this acafan’s allegiance.

  26. Supernatural, so far, has consistently developed the fan following — though the show itself is doing some interesting things the fan base is just as strong with solid fan fiction communities on LJ, along with meta discussions of the program itself. As well, the Slash Con in Michigan is pushing that as one of the leading topics for this summer ^_^

  27. It is far from a typical fan-show, but the American version of The Office (now in its third season, although the first season was only six episodes), is the best thing I’ve seen in years, and has produced a small but very loyal fandom, centered mainly on Television Without Pity and Livejournal, plus one archive site. For sheer entertainment value, it’s one of the funniest things on TV (easily living up to its English predecessor), but the writers don’t forget about character relationships.

    The central UST will-they-won’t-they relationship has a large following, naturally, but there are enough interesting side characters with their own relationships to satisfy anyone. The character work is deftly woven into the plotlines, which involve both humor and drama, so the total viewing experience is more enjoyable, I think, than some of the shows where the characters are fabulous and the rest of the show is on crack.

    I’ve rarely seen a non-genre show attract this much attention — or this many good fanfic writers — and I’m pleased to see that at least one mainstream show is capable of sustaining a real fandom. Gives me hope for network television after all.

  28. I see that a few other people have mentioned this one as well, but I would have to go with Supernatural. While it’s not brand new, it is just entering its second season and is trying to get a leg up on the competition. I think it has all of the criteria that you’re looking for in a show.

    There is a strong sense of family and dedication between the two brothers who are the central characters on the show. Their purpose is to avenge their mother’s death.

    This is the first show since the X-Files that has peaked my interest in the horror/supernatural category. It’s like an hour-long horror movie each and every week.

    The continuity is fabulous, and works in all sorts of extra information, both on the characters and whatever myth they’re investigating. I find myself re-watching episodes, figuring out what’s going on, and the researching the history of the legends.

    The following for this show and it’s creator are amazing. I was introduced to this show halfway through the first season and was sucked right into it.

  29. Just want to put in another good word for Supernatural.

    It’s one of the shows that keeps me coming back for more. Just because of the witty banter, the characters, and the interesting topics. Kripke has introduced so many interesting things and ideas throughout the first and second seasons, and I just can’t wait for more!

  30. Supernatural deserves to be pimped by you. I have never spent more time discussing character developments, which you seem to be very fond of, for any other show. Dean and Sam Winchester (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki) have so much layers and depth to them, I am blown away every week, if not with major revelations than with nuances that prove how much the creative departments are in tune with their show.

    Aeryn and Hope pretty much summarized what I would’ve posted. Please take this savvy, smart show into conideration!

  31. The nature of a fandom like Supernatural is that even though you’re discussing “new” shows – when you ask us to “pimp” a show, we arrive. That’s just…us.

    Given that the partnership of Sam and Dean Winchester in isolation is a prime focus of the show, it follows, that in some ways, the fandom has a similar. In whatever way fans band together because they feel a strange paradox of marginalization and adeptness due to their self-identification as fans, the show seems to mirror that and both reinforce and question the validity of those feelings. The heroes are incredibly liminal. Attractive, relatively smooth in social situations, and quick-thinking, anyone could pass them on the street and at the least pay them no heed, if not pass them a polite smile. Yet, as we are allowed into their inner world, and the world they construct and deconstruct between one another, there is a huge gap between what they present (a recent episode montages this fact exceedingly well with quick clips of the long list of aliases, fake professions, and fraud the Winchesters have succeeded at) and what they truly are. Their independence of so much of the social network/social mores that the general population finds themselves beholden to is alluring. They are on the run, on the lam, dangerous in a sleek black car, with the power of esoteric knowledge on their side. And on the other hand, an equally addictive fantasy for a fan to connect with: the boys care about one another, they care about their father, their relationship fetters them in a way that laws simply do not. The intensity of caring, of emotion, of love so entangled and repressed can be intoxicating on the opposite end of the spectrum. In both these ways, the non-conventionality of the usually male cast offers a generally female-based fandom a lot to root for and see themselves in.

    The “horror” genre as the show chooses to play it out seems to also produce fans of both genders. The level of “awesomeness” due to the blood, gore, and terror is certainly a much debated topic. Did an episode “grab” you, terrify you, or were you unmoved? Having this kind of tracking material on a week by week basis can inspire a fan to stay with the fandom, see if next week will have that original magic that drew them in to begin with. I remember when I saw my first episode, “Bloody Mary,” and enjoyed it while doing other work…that night I couldn’t sleep at all. And then I knew I had to see that show again.

    Also, the subject matter provides grist for the fandom mill. Personal experiences, personal knowledge of the urban legend(s) invoked, one’s own beliefs about the possibilities of the supernatural all come into play. The frame of the show merits discussion on a weekly basis as opposed to a show set in a hospital, for example, where the rules are defined at the outset and while cases may change, the ways a character can respond to a case are very much proscribed. In other words: boring.

    The “cult” aspect of the show is also a draw for some, who do not want to be watching the same show that the country is talking about at the water cooler.

    I would definitely agree that one of my pleasures in watching Supernatural is the management of the overall arc, the mystery and the continuity. Who Sam and Dean Winchester are, what they are capable of, and where the show will lead them is an intriguing matter when you’re given private access. There’s something very Eleusinian about “hanging out in the back seat of the Metallicar” – in-jokes, their creation and repetition, the creation of a lexicon tied solely to the show, that you can share with other fans, but not necessarily your co-worker is appealing for a genre fan. This isn’t the same kind of fandom as a “McDreamy” style fandom where everyone is in on the gag, noting everything in every episode and everything is publicized. For Supernatural, instead, the cobbling together of clues, the joyful recognition of fan-service, the desire to “convert” – all makes for a powerful “cracky” fandom experience.

    Yes, please, watch this show!

  32. Of the new shows I’m still watching Heroes and Studio 60, but only Heroes has my fan interest. I’m glad to see that this show attracted not only the cult following it expected, but also a broader audience.

    The only other show that I’m a fan right now is Gilmore Girls.

  33. The new show I’d most like to pimp is already out of business: Kidnapped. Great cast, smart writing, good balance of mystery & character, clear sense of an overall structure – all foiled by NBC’s impatience. And while the digital age makes the pain of cancellation a bit easier, NBC has messed up putting the episodes online, pulling old ones off too quickly and making the fans angry yet again. Let’s hope they give a decent DVD release.

    Both Heroes & Studio 60 are interesting shows with big flaws – the former’s dialogue is clunky & cliched, while Studio 60 lacks perspective on itself (nobody in the world cares about the sordid past of a network president whose been on the job for a month – if a tell-all book about Jeff Zucker was written in a forest, it would not make a sound…). 30 Rock seems like the most promising new comedy, although I fear NBC may kill it in its sleep.

  34. I know it’s in its sixth season, and it’s still fairly formulaic, but Smallville has never been better at diving into the Superman mythos.

    1) They got around the Batman Embargo by using Green Arrow, who has always been the Daredevil to Batman’s Spider-Man (both in good and bad ways). I actually think they’ve managed to flesh out Oliver Queen’s character more in a half-dozen episodes than they have with Clark over the entire series.

    2) Zod! Phantom zone! S-emblem/House-of-El crest! All that’s missing is William’s “Krypton” cue.

    3) Knowing that the [Spoiler?] proto-Justice League episode will include Aquaman (since the spin-off for the character had no space after the WB/UPN merger) AND that it’s not even the season finale is simultaneously exciting and scary (kind of like knowing Spider-Man 3 has, what, four villains?).

    Ï€) Pete Ross still hasn’t popped back up, but Jimmy Olsen is as adorable as a Jimmy Olsen can be.

    There’s probably some cognitive dissonance going on here if I can like Smallville while resenting the mere existence of the ‘Legion’ cartoon, but oh well.

  35. Sheila Wilson says:

    I just want to echo the sentiments of the previous Supernatural entries. It fills all 5 of your criteria, and then some. Strong characters, an excellent mythology, and it’s funny to boot. It really is the most underrated show on televison.

    Dexter is my favorite new show, however. The protaganist is different from any I have ever seen on television, and Michael C. Hall is refreshing as him. It is excellent in forcing you to feel sympathy for a serial killer, and at times, urge him to kill.

  36. Studio 60 and Heroes, definitely. I don’t have a television (at all–it’s in my parents’ garage due to lack of space) so what I watch is mostly what I can find, legally or illegally, online. Studio 60 had some troubles after the first show, but it seems to be picking up a little–and, in terms of slashiness, it’s (imho) the best new show on TV. I keep hoping Sorkin pulls something really amazing out, though, because so far I like the show but I’m losing my inclination to be fannish about it.

    Heroes gets more and more compelling by the week, but I’m getting a little worried about how long they can sustain the mysteries of the show and if they’ll be able to find new questions to replace the things they solve.

    I’d been looking forward to Vanished–due to being a fan of Queer as Folk and thus Gale Harold–but the show was so contrived and melodramatic that I stopped watching after two episodes.

    Also, there’s the new British show Torchwood, the offshoot of Doctor Who. It’s not nearly as well-written, and it’s quite a bit more depressing, but the fact that the main character is canonically bisexual cures all ills. (Also, the portrayal puts him as one of only three media characters I’ve ever seen who are bi as a stable identity, not as a transitional one.)

    Like somebody above, I watched Eureka over the summer, but I’m still not sure if I like it or not. For one thing, I know too much physics and the show made my brain hurt even more than Stargate. My other big problem was they’d set up the show so brilliantly to show scientists as normal people with maybe a few personality quirks, but instead they’re focusing almost purely on the non-science support staff in the town, except for the villans. Oh well.

  37. Hi, just want to add to the shout-outs for Supernatural! People compare it to The X-Files, which is fine, but it is original in its own right. So you want character relationships? Dean and Sam Winchester share a complex bond where they can be dramatic one moment, and then hilarious in the next. Genre entertainment? It doesn’t get more genre than Supernatural. It’s like a mini-horror movie every week. The strict continuity of the show allows for easy-to-follow fan discussion. There are many secrets on the show to be solved/discovered. There are even small moments from the first season that have yet to be explained, though creator Kripke promises they will be one day. I just hope that Supernatural gets the chance it dearly deserves so we viewers can follow the Winchester brothers on their hero’s journey. Thanks!

  38. Supernatural is the show I am obsessing about bigtime! Fan friendly? You betcha! Eric Kripke is one of the coolest creators ever. He takes fan feedback seriously, and I love him for it. Also, the dedication to this show that I’ve seen is amazing. If only more people knew about Supernatural, I believe it would have an even greater following. The CW has not been overly exerting itself in promoting this show, and I know it’s up to us fans to pimp it. It may be an underdog in ratings, but I know it has the potential to go for at least six seasons storywise, given the opportunity. Want characters? Try the Winchesters. Yay for Supernatural! lol. =)

  39. eurydice13 says:

    “Fan friendly” television? Supernatural is the DEFINITION of fan friendly.

    I actually was introduced to it through fandom–I read some of the really good fanfic that people were writing for it and thought, Hey, this show might be interesting. I’ve picked up shows that way before (like Stargate SG-1). But what blew me away when I turned into Supernatural was the closeness between what fans wanted to see (as shown through fanfic) and what was on the screen. Usually when there’s a friendship that fan glom onto, there will be hints of it onscreen–banter, and maybe once or twice per season they save each other’s lives. It’s the fans who had the really deep, strong emotional undercurrent in fanfic. But in Supernatural, the intense bond between the brothers is part of the text. Y’know those awesome fanfics where your characters declare that “we’re all that’s left, so we have to see this through together”? Where they’re ready to fight and kill and die for each other, and then are a little worried by how berserker they go when one of them is in danger? That’s what happens in Supernatural episodes.

    And snarking. Lots of snarking.

    Supernatural has just started its second season, and it’s only getting stronger. Last season’s finale kicked both the emotional/character arc and the mytharc into high gear, and it hasn’t let up. So far, every episode has advanced the character arcs, and most of them have dealt with the mytharc as well, while still holding the viewers in suspense on a few very important secrets. This show could not be giving me any more personal gratification unless Sam and Dean personally showed up on my doorstep to spoon-feed me chocolate ice cream.

    In short: Supernatural is smart, funny, scary, and genuinely moving. And its second season is only getting better. Despite being criminally underpromoted, it’s attracted a sizeablwe and extremely loyal fanbase. So what are you waiting for?

  40. You might find a post by vegetariansushi on what makes a TV show popular, focusing on Stargate Atlantis, but there is discussion of other shows in the comments. The post is here.

  41. Florence Gallez says:

    Bloody plots and avalanche of classics

    Russia will be getting its own version of the hit U.S. show “Law & Order” early next year, The Moscow Times reports Dec. 1, leaving many here to scratch their heads as to how the concepts of law and order could be applied to the Russian criminal justice system. [http://context.themoscowtimes.com/story/172825/]

    For most Russians, corruption and the police [and by extension all representatives of the authorities] are synonymous. But according to an actor of the Russian adaptation of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “the whole truth about our police” will not be shown.

    The Russian adaptation of the series, which will premiere in February on federal channel NTV and is part of the U.S. franchise’s international expansion plans, reflects a growing appetite for crime shows among both Russian television producers and consumers. In fact, as the MT argues, it is not clear which of these two groups is the trendsetter – if there is genuine demand for such shows or if they are being force-fed to viewers. Suffice it to say that in post-Soviet Russia, the public has shown a real hunger for crime and sensationalist material in both print and broadcast media, while media producers have readily been tapping this blood-and-guts market.

    Along those lines, another show, NTV’s new drama series “Without Honor,” later renamed “Damned Heaven,” which was presented at a launch party this week, is due to premiere in January. Set in a brothel, the series includes popular male stripper Tarzan and a gynecological examination, complete with bloodstained gloves, among its scenes. The series will not tread into erotic territory though, as it will be shown in the evening hours but before midnight.

    It is not all low-minded material though in Russian television’s successful programs: at the TEFI television awards ceremony last Thursday [Nov. 24] NTV won two awards for its acclaimed 11-part television adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, which started to air in May, and two of the series’ actors were nominated ‘best actors.’

    Television adaptations of literary classics have been bringing in strong ratings in recent years, with adaptations of works by Alexander Pushkin, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Mikhail Bulgakov among others becoming hits for their respective channel.

    This is the first Russian adaptation of Pasternak’s book, which was forbidden under Soviet rule, as it follows David Lean’s 1965 film and a British television miniseries four years ago starring Keira Knightly.

    All in all, it looks like in the seemingly chaotic landscape of post-Soviet popular visual culture, there is room for all tastes and for fans of all stripes – many of the latter were driven underground in the censorship-ridden rule of the Soviet era. This also speaks of a growing presence of entertainment in Russian television.

    As for me, I am staying away from the TV set this weekend: I’m off to see Igor Apasyan’s new film, “Graffiti,” which a recent post by Pr. Jenkins [Graffiti as an Exemplary Practice?: Tats Cru, Nov. 24] has suddenly made me curious about.

    Stay tuned if the theme of graffiti and related matters intrigue you:)

    Florence Gallez

    [Moscow-based journalist]