The new “cult”: Evaluating changes in cult television through Supernatural

Ed Note: I’m simply trying to post various academic pieces I’ve written over the past few years in case anyone wants to check them out. The following was completed in the spring of 2009, so certain portions might be out of date a little. I’m in the process of updating it.

Television programs with “cult followings” have a specific aura surrounding them. On one hand, they are heavily serialized, genre-mixing programs that do not appeal to mass audiences, but are fervently loved by a small group of people. On the other, they are known for being casualties of a ratings-starved, advertising-driven network structure that leads to quick cancellations. One program tagged with cult status that survives is Supernatural.

The program, which follows two brothers crisscrossing the nation battling urban legends come-to-life, debuted in 2005 on the WB network to a big audience relative to the WB’s typical ratings (5.7 million viewers).[i] But four years later, the program’s pilot episode remains its highest-rated, and throughout the past three seasons, Supernatural has regularly attracted only 3 million viewers per episode. This paper will look to analyze why the program’s creative staff uses folklore, urban legends and genre-mixing storytelling to appeal to a specific audience. At the same time it will ask what the program’s relatively small, but cult-like following tell us about the current state of cult television and its place amongst contemporary television.

In relation to normal network television expectations, Supernatural has had weak ratings since its premiere in 2005. However, it survived one of the most rocky network transitions in history when in 2006 the WB and UPN merged to become the CW, a network primarily targeted at teenage girls. How has Supernatural survived four seasons while it has struggled to find viewers?  What role has the program’s fans played in its survival or changed the minds of those initially non-interested, specifically critics? How do the fans’ online presence and relationship with show runner Eric Kripke enhance their enjoyment of the program?

Additionally, Supernatural has been given the cult tag that supposedly appeals to a certain, “non-mainstream” audience. What elements of storytelling which reportedly attract cult television audiences are found in Supernatural? How does this label shape the writing of the program? And finally, how is “cult television” really defined today? In the current television landscape, the proliferation of channels and increased pressure to deliver ratings hits leads to cancelations of supposed cult programs and less risk-taking by the major networks on the development side. Yet the presence of Supernatural tells us that there is still room for cult television in some form within the broadcast network structure.

Supernatural was created by Eric Kripke, who had a solid relationship with the WB network after executive producing 2003’s failed Tarzan.[ii] Kripke had been in love with the idea of urban legends and American mythology since he was young and had written a handful of different stories that served as a way to tell those tales.[iii] When he went into the WB meeting in 2004, his plan was to tell the story through the eyes of a reporter, but when the network turned him down, he changed it to two brothers traveling around the country – an idea he had just scribbled down the day before.[iv] The WB loved it and Supernatural was born. In the developmental process, Kripke teamed up with producer/director McG and his Wonderland Sound and Vision Production Company, who co-produced Supernatural with Warner Bros. Television Productions.[v]

Supernatural debuted September 13, 2005 on the now-defunct WB network behind long-running series Gilmore Girls to the network’s strongest rating in the 9 p.m. Tuesday slot in two years.[vi] Supernatural did so well in its initial season that midway through it was paired with the network’s highest-rated program, Smallville, to create a male-orientated Thursday night, a time slot it remains in to this day. After the program’s first season, the Warner Bros.-owned WB and CBS Corporation-owned UPN disbanded and came together in a joint venture known as the CW. Even with two times as many programs competing for half as many spots, Supernatural was renewed for a second season and has since been so for a third, fourth (currently airing) and fifth season in 2009-10.[vii] The mediocre ratings, especially from the second season onward, could be contributed to the rocky transition between networks. The CW was created in the hope that it could take on the big four broadcast networks in a way that neither the WB or UPN could do on their own, a goal it has not achieved. From the beginning, the network fought an uphill battle, from controversy surrounding the name selection, the failure of “renting out” their Sunday nights to an outside source known as Media Rights Capital, to the chatter about whether or not the network would even survive.[viii]

Nevertheless, in comparison to the weak performances on the CW, Supernatural has been mostly steady, obtaining ratings in its fourth year that are the best since the opening season.[ix] The program’s solid performance is more surprising considering the posturing the CW has done to become a network targeted towards women, primarily those in the 12-34 demographic.  The CW currently attempts to brand itself as the destination for young women. The programs the network tries to associate itself with – Gossip Girl, 90210 and America’s Next Top Model – are all finely-targeted at females. Though it is debatable whether or not this technique is actually working, the CW’s approach has led to decreased promotion for its few programs that do not fit the brand – Supernatural being one of them – even if those programs are on the surface more successful.

Bad ratings, good news

As previously mentioned, Supernatural is far from a “hit” in terms of its ratings, but perhaps that is not a bad thing. After a strong first season on the WB, the transition to the CW and serialized nature of the program affected its performance, with ratings dipping in seasons two and three.[x] Even with improved ratings in its fourth season, the highest rating the program obtained was 3.28 million viewers and a 1.7/5 share in the 18-34 demographic (meaning 1.7 percent of that demographic watched the episode). In comparison, a new episode of CSI: airing at the same time was watched by 14.38 million people and received a 2.7/8 share in the 18-34 demographic.[xi] Taking in to account rating erosion across all broadcast networks, those figures are still low.[xii] And although the program’s lack of ratings success can at least partially be blamed on the weakness of the CW as a network, said struggles are also partially responsible for Supernatural’s survival. The weak ratings actually help the program in terms of its cult status because it helps spur the swirling online support and also brought fans closer to the creative staff, specifically show runner Eric Kripke. Unlike other programs that have an obvious target audience (women and Grey’s Anatomy, for example), the viewers of Supernatural are a part of a small, but broad cross-section. In the highly-rated episode mentioned above, the program attracted its highest rating in the 18-34 demographic in two years and its highest number of women in that bracket in four months.[xiii] This makes the “target fan” of Supernatural somewhat unique. They are not mostly men or mostly women – they are just Supernatural fans.

Fans of cult programming like Supernatural want to present themselves as in opposition of the mainstream or popular, but still be involved with a “better” or more distinctive world, and with such a small number of people watching it regularly, fans of Supernatural can really feel connected to the program and a part of something special. Although Mark Jancovich and Nathan Hunt criticize cult television fans for their attitudes of distinction and argue these audiences are “not the product of an authentic self-generation or affinity that is threatened with incorporation by ‘the media’,” it is difficult to deny the power these fans feel.[xiv] Supernatural fans go beyond the typical online fan activities such as message board flame wars, fan fiction and general complaining (though they do partake in their fair share of those activities) to push their favorite program into the mainstream.  Whereas cult audiences of programs like Firefly did not influence others outside “the cult” in hopes of keeping it on the air, fans of Supernatural have.

Online fans go above and beyond

When Supernatural debuted, the critical opinion was mixed at best. Brian Lowry of Variety called it “A perfectly serviceable if not particularly inspired bumper” and the Chicago Tribune’s Maureen Ryan said “Genre fans used to the emotional depth and extraordinary storytelling of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel will find that this show is not even remotely in Buffy‘s or Angel‘s league.”[xv] Though others found the program enjoyable, its average score complied by review-generator Metacritic was only a 59 out of 100.[xvi]

However, as the online fervor surrounding Supernatural increased over time, it has pushed the mainstream media to cover the program. The discussions began on web sites like TelevisionWithoutPity.com, but now extend to more “mainstream” television web sites like TVGuide.com and EW.com (the web site for Entertainment Weekly). Mark Andrejevic suggests that fan cultures like the one created around Supernatural are being “openly embraced by producers,” but can also apply to the mainstream media.[xvii] As Jancovich and Hunt suggest cult fans attempt to distinguish themselves from “ordinary” viewers, but the fans of Supernatural also want to infiltrate the spaces of those ordinary viewers in hopes of emphasizing differences between both the program and how the fans react to it.[xviii] Hence Supernatural is the fourth “Most Popular” program on TVGuide.com and the site regularly posts news updates, spoilers and recaps about it.[xix] Whether this increased coverage by the publications and web sites is because they believe in the program’s quality or simply for more page views is unknown. But four-page profiles in Entertainment Weekly and featured posts on the New York Post’s PopWrap blog nevertheless raise Supernatural’s profile.[xx] The program’s cause is also helped by the increased presence of critics online, where critics like Maureen Ryan, who has certainly altered her opinion of the program, can regularly publish opinions on programs they feel are under-represented, in hopes of influencing unaware readers to pay more attention.[xxi]

Fans and the show runner

As noted by Andrejevic in his study of Television Without Pity and Victor Costello and Barbara Moore in their analysis of online fandom, access to the Internet allows television audiences to more active.[xxii] Andrejevic suggests that although fan posters on web sites like TWoP contribute to a discussion under the guise of gaining the attention of the program’s producers, they really know “better than to imagine that interactivity would actually allow them to make an impression on TPTB [the powers that be]” and that past programs like The West Wing and Popular backhandedly acknowledged fans as a way to gain audience trust, but also to let them know who is in control.[xxiii] Though most of Andrejevic’s suggestions still prove to be true within the relationship between the creative staff of Supernatural and its fans, the interaction is more complex.

Unlike West Wing mastermind Aaron Sorkin’s jab at fans, Eric Kripke has acknowledged fan criticism since the program’s inception and regularly references mistakes the creative staff makes in interviews and in episodes. Both seasons two and three introduced new female characters – Jo in season two, Bella and Ruby in season three – in hopes of expanding the Winchester brothers’ world, decisions widely-panned by fans. When those choices come up in interviews, Kripke “regrets” trying to shoe-horn Jo into the plot and labels the Bella-centric episode “Red Sky at Morning” as season three’s “least successful.”[xxiv] Kripke’s candor in interviews and videos on the program’s official web site suggests that he knows fans are a driving factor in the program staying on the air and helping it gain more coverage in the mainstream, in spite of weak ratings. This leads the already-dedicated audience to trust Kripke’s vision for Supernatural even more because they know he feels the same way they do about the characters and past creative mistakes. When Kripke decides to use his relationship with the fans to either push them back a bit (like with the “hyper-intertextuality” in the fourth season‘s “The Monster At the End of This Book” that directly tackled the fans’ obsession with Winchester brother “slash” fan fiction, among other things) or take chances with the narrative, they are less likely to speak out because they trust him.[xxv]

“Cult” properties in the aesthetic of Supernatural

To obtain the cult moniker and get the fans active on the web sites and in indirect conversations with the creative staff, programs must feature elements that appeal to that type of fan. Patrick Porter suggests that to be attractive to cultists, a text “must be new in some way; it must be fresh and distinct from all that surrounds it,” Derek Johnson argues that cult television texts “are designed to be involving to make them more attractive to fan consumers.”[xxvi] The producers of Supernatural make sure the program meets these requirements with three techniques: genre-mixing, intertexuality and creating an immersive, sprawling mythology. Though Supernatural is on the surface a program that appears to be “Route 66 with the two brothers dropping into a horror movie each week” as Kripke called it in season one, the storytelling is much more complex, and thus more appealing to cult audiences.[xxvii]

Perhaps more interesting is how the program’s producers have been able to slowly add layers to the mythology over the four seasons and reward the fans who have kept with the program throughout. Whereas programs like Buffy or The X-Files balanced the mythology and standalone episode very easily in their respective first seasons, Supernatural, with the creative staff perhaps feeling more pressure from the network to attract the general viewer, only touched on the season-long arc of finding their father about once every four episodes in season one. At that point, Supernatural was rarely anything more than a “folklore of the week” episodic program, though using folklore and American legends in the storytelling did call attention to stories that rarely were given their proper due in film and television. Bringing some of country’s oldest tales with (such as the Hook Man, Bloody Mary and Scarecrow in the aptly-titled “Hook Man,” “Bloody Mary” and “Scarecrow” episodes) with modern twists to television audiences made Supernatural appealing to the audience.[xxviii]

Additionally, folklore scholar Paul Smith suggests that both scholars and the entertainment industry fail to recognize “the role of film and television industry as users and disseminators of contemporary legends.”[xxix] It has been established that cult fans are attracted to the different and “off-mainstream,” and taking into account Smith’s argument about the lack of folklore in television (the exact storytelling device the program uses), Supernatural’s first season was still a cult magnet, even with its standalone-episode structure.  From the second season-onward, the producers have ramped up the genre-mixing and intertextuality, as the program now features a significant amount of comedic moments between Sam and Dean while simultaneously expanding the brothers’ world on an almost weekly basis. Though still powered by scary environments and horror movie conventions (something trying to kill the brothers each week), episodes like season two’s “Tall Tales” and season three’s “Mystery Spot” introduce more humorous foils – in these cases a Trickster. This permits the producers to poke fun at various storytelling conventions like the “Groundhog Day” approach used in “Mystery Spot” when Sam has relive Dean’s death day over and over, while still giving it a Supernatural spin (Dean dying in numerous gruesome ways is obviously dark).[xxx] Since season two, the program has also featured consistent in-jokes and self-reflexive spots that only make sense to long-time fans.

If a fan were to sit down and watch four consecutive episodes from one of the past three seasons, chances are very good they would see two episodes that feature standalone “entity of the week” stories, one episode that is a complete comedic diversion and a final episode that furthers the season’s main arc. This approach is very similar to the one used by the producers of Buffy and The X-Files, and is what Jeffery Sconce calls the “cumulative narrative,” that positions “stand-alone stories within larger story arcs…converting the lowly TV series into what one critic has termed the ‘prime-time novel’.”[xxxi]

However, while the comparisons to Buffy and The X-Files are certainly valid and Sconce’s points true, the producers of Supernatural have the opportunity (or disadvantage) of taking these techniques to the next level because the program’s viewership is much smaller. Both The X-Files and Buffy were cultural phenomenon and catalysts for the survival of their respective networks. Though those programs certainly took chances with the narrative early on, noteworthy “different” episodes like “The Post-Modern Prometheus” and “Hush” did not take place until the fifth season of X-Files and fourth season of Buffy, respectively.[xxxii]

With a small, but relatively-steady audience and lower expectations from the CW, Eric Kripke and his staff are able to produce episodes fueled with intertextual references like season two’s “Hollywood Babylon,” which mocks badly-produced horror content. In the episode Sam and Dean travel to the Warner Bros. lot in Hollywood to investigate murders on a film set (the studio that produces Supernatural), though they admit the weather feels Canadian (the program is filmed in Vancouver). Other self-reflexive beats see Dean tell the episode’s “hot girl victim of the week” that he loved her in Boogeyman, to which she replies “the script sucked” (a film which Kripke wrote) and the director is named McG (the program’s executive producer).

Yet with all the off-beat references and humor, people are still murdered and the brothers still have to hunt an evil entity, which leads to a seamless transition between “typical Supernatural scenes” and other scenes that poke fun at “typical Supernatural scenes.”  Two other episodes that exemplify these storytelling techniques are season three’s fourth-wall breaking “Ghostfacers” and season four’s “The Monster At the End of this Book.” The former, filmed almost entirely with a handheld camera and using only infrared lighting, is a riff on supposed reality programming like Ghost Hunters and actually references the Writer’s Guild of America strike that was on-going at the time.[xxxiii] Meanwhile, the latter sees the brothers come across a book series titled Supernatural that follows their life to a “t,” is loved by only a small cult-like group of fans and features numerous allusions to the program’s writing staff and fans.[xxxiv]

Writing with the cult in mind

Certain storytelling techniques used by the Supernatural staff strongly appeal to television viewers who want to be away from the mainstream, but still involved in a distinct fan experience. As Johnson suggests, these audiences are “invited in” by programs:

By creating more proximate relationships between the spaces of production, consumption and narrative, multiplatforming has reshaped the relationships between industry, audience and text.[xxxv]

There are a few significant reasons why the writing staff of Supernatural is able to use these narrative techniques when telling their stories and invite the audience in. First, while the program has a small audience, that knowledge permits Kripke and his team to write only for that audience. Four seasons in and with only five seasons planned, they should understand that not many new viewers are watching for the first time on a week-to-week basis.[xxxvi] Secondly, they can write the program with as many intertextual references, in-jokes and twists as they want because audience is knowledgeable on the program’s history and narrative structure. Third, the audience trusts Kripke and believes that any risk he takes will either pay off or be corrected due their past indirect experiences with him. Because Supernatural’s fans already believe Eric Kripke and the production staff listens to their comments and feel like they are indirectly interacting with him, they are proud to pick up on self-reflexive beats and in-jokes targeted specifically at them. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, these feelings of trust and being “invited in” all relate back to the fans’ experience online with the program. Fans spend so much time with the program – partaking in discussions on fan message boards, promoting the program in the comments on mainstream television web sites, etc. – even when they are not watching, that to them the relationships they have with the it, its producers and its cast are important. In simple terms, that is the definition of a cult text fan.

What is really “cult television?”

Although this paper suggests that both the storytelling techniques and fan culture of Supernatural are in line with what appeals to cult audiences, determining exactly what cult television is today is certainly more difficult. The analysis of cult television is so mixed, to the point that it is important to survey the certain distinctions others have made. Jancovich and Hunt argue that “there is no single quality that characterizes a cult text” but they are actually positioned based on their opposition to the mainstream.[xxxvii] Inversely, Porter argues that there are inherent characteristics present in all cult texts – novelty and distinction – that manifest through genre-mixing, self-reflexivity and narrative experimentation, among others.[xxxviii] These opposing viewpoints suggest the definition of cult television is ever-changing, though not unidentifiable as Jancovich and Hunt argue. By acknowledging the aesthetic characteristics crafted by Porter, this paper suggests that Supernatural is in line with older cult programming like Buffy. But whereas Porter’s criteria focuses solely on a text’s storytelling techniques (primarily through the use of serialization and novel, subversive arcs), I suggest adding two principles to his list that cover a program’s reception and interaction with fans: the program’s fans must have a significantly active online presence that extends past activities typically discussed in cult television discourses (message board postings, etc.) and an involved relationship with its creative staff, primarily the show runner. These additions, which have been evaluated in this paper, help identify Supernatural as a redefined version of the cult television program in the post-broadcast, neo-network era.  The principles proposed here are not new in relation to cult television, as the suggestions made by Porter apply to older programs given the cult label, including Farscape and Buffy.[xxxix]

However, they are becoming more pronounced because of the external factors in the neo-network era. Although all television programs face cancellation from networks looking for ratings hits and older cult programs like Buffy also had low ratings in relation to competitors, the proliferation of cable and pay channels and convergence technologies has brought network ratings down.[xl] Moreover, though executive producers like Buffy’s Joss Whedon were fully instilled with trust by their audience and allowed to develop long-running arcs littered with intertexuality, the ability of fans to get closer to their favorite programs and its producers through various technologies almost forces producers of programs targeted a cult audience to create what Matt Hills notes as “hyperdiegeses” or “vast and detailed narrative space[s].”[xli] As Derek Kompare suggests, this creates a series of “ongoing collaborations of expectations and possibilities between creators, networks…viewers, fans and technology.”[xlii] This give-and-take with the producers and the creation of immersive worlds strongly appeals to cult television fans and gets them to watch, the obvious goal for any television program, especially in the ratings-challenged landscape of today.

Bringing the cult and complex together

This paper identifies Supernatural as the slightly-refined example of the cult television program, but after trying to analyze cult television audiences and these modern, “metaverses” as Sara Gwenllian-Jones and Roberta Pearson call them, perhaps the two ideas are closely-related. Arguments defining cult television like those of Porter suggest that cult texts must have “novel worlds” while Jancovich and Hunt note that cult texts must develop characters, story and overall “emphasize quality.”[xliii] Meanwhile, an argument analyzing the new complexities found in dramatic television from Jason Mittell notes the importance of “intense engagement” of audiences, while Sconce examines how these audiences watch “with greater fidelity and attention.”[xliv] To reach a definable point of success (whatever that is for a program), it is difficult to create expansive worlds without the dedicated audience present to get wrapped up in it. Similarly, it is difficult to attract a cult audience that lives and breathes with a program if the content does not encompass most of the traits they are looking for in a program, which includes deep, mythos-heavy arcs. Thus it could be argued that the complex dramas seen on television in recent years all had a cult following in some form or another, while all supposed cult programs were also extremely complex narratively. At this point, it may be too difficult to tell the difference between these two ideas because everyone – producers, networks, channels and fans – wants programs to have both.

The major networks searching for hit programs with broad appeal seemingly do not have the patience to let complicated, genre-mixing programs grow. This leads to the quick cancellations of these dense programs (examples being FOX’s Firefly and NBC’s Kings), which in turn attract a cult following. Typically personified by lackluster ratings even during the broadcast era, the programs labeled with the cult tag are having more trouble today. Yet, Supernatural, a program that fits the cult label perfectly, has found a home on network television for four years. The program’s success, or at least survival, proves a few significant points that are a part of a larger movement for cult programs and for all programs within the post-broadcast, neo-network era. The genre-mixing and serialized storytelling techniques portrayed in programs like Supernatural on the surface only appeal to a small, dedicated audience, with a few exceptions over time such as The X-Files, Lost or to a lesser extent, Buffy. The online relationship between the Supernatural creative team and that audience, as well as the online fervor surrounding the program proves that serialized television programs can help their survival chances with a solid online base and word-of-mouth. Though online buzz helps a program’s cause, it remains to be seen how much that translates to ratings success and season renewals (as a large part of Supernatural’s staying power must be connected with its network’s struggles). These points lead to two primary questions that broadcast networks must face in the coming years: how to redefine their measure of success and how to create programming that can lead to said success.

In the past, programs with ratings like Supernatural would not have made it through one season, even on a network like the CW with lower expectations. Recent cult favorites like Firefly had better ratings than Supernatural, but were quickly canceled.[xlv] Though they have begun doing so in the past season, broadcast networks need to re-evaluate their expectations and attempt to find other measures of success to keep complex cult programs like Supernatural on the air. On the other hand, the lack of achievement of cult programs in recent years might make Supernatural more of the exception instead of the rule. Without lowering their expectations, broadcast networks will need another way to attract the viewers who attempt to distinguish themselves based on their tastes. But with the connections drawn above between complex programming and cult audiences, the active audiences – those who get online, discuss and spread the word about their favorite programs – might be uninterested in content that does not meet their high expectations and supposed “better” tastes. How will networks and producers grab the attention of those fans? Will this lead to production of more programs that appeal to mass audiences – episodic programs featuring doctors, cops and lawyers – while the production of serialized, dense programs decreases? Or does the influence of “important” audiences only exist in the minds of those who classify themselves as such? It is possible for a “cult” to form around any text, no matter the general consensus on quality, so perhaps the industry will be just fine attracting audiences. Could the previously-“important” audiences be replaced by those who are willing to watch generic television, leaving the connection between the cult audience and complex television behind?


[i] “Luke says yes to Lorelai and fall 2005 gets off to a Supernatural start for The WB.” TheFutonCritic. 14 Sept. 2005.  11 March 2009 <http://www.thefutoncritic.com/news.aspx?id=20050914wb01&gt;.

[ii] Kripke, Eric, David Nutter and Peter Johnson, commentary. Pilot. Supernatural: The Complete First Season, 2005. DVD. Warner Home Video, 2006.

[iii] Jancovich, Mark and Nathan Hunt. “The Mainstream, Distinction, and Cult TV.” In Cult Television, edited by Sara Gwenllian-Jones and Roberta E. Pearson, 27-44. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

[iv] Surette, Tim. “TV.com Q&A: Supernatural creator Eric Kripke.” TV.com. 10 Jan. 2008. 11 March 2009 <http://www.tv.com/story/10682.html&gt;.

[v]Supernatural.IMDb: The Internet Movie Database. 31 Apr 2009.   <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0460681/companycredits&gt;

[vi] “Luke says yes to Lorelai and fall 2005 gets off to a Supernatural start for The WB.” TheFutonCritic. 14 Sept. 2005.  11 March 2009 <http://www.thefutoncritic.com/news.aspx?id=20050914wb01&gt;.

[vii] Adalian, Josef. “CW Signals It’s Sticking Around by Renewing 6 Series.” TVWeek.com. 24 Feb. 2009. 11 March 2009 <http://www.tvweek.com/news/2009/02/cw_signals_its_sticking_around.php&gt;.

[viii] Grossman, Ben. “CW Staying CW, Says Moonves.” Broadcasting & Cable 15 March 2006. 11 March 2009 <http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/103273-CW_Staying_CW_Says_Moonves.php&gt;; Dana, Rebecca A. “It’s No Gossip, Ratings Slip Threatens CW Network.” The Wall Street Journal 16 May 2008, Daily ed., B1 sec.

[ix]Supernatural Season 4 Premiere Breaks Ratings Records.” BuddyTV.com. 19 Sept. 2009. 11 March 2009 <http://www.buddytv.com/articles/supernatural/supernatural-season-4-premiere-22986.aspx&gt;.

[x] Seidman, Robert. “Supernatural Ratings, 2007-08.” TVBytheNumbers.com. 18 Nov. 2007. 2 May 2009 <http://tvbythenumbers.com/2007/11/18/supernatural-ratings-2007-2008/1814&gt;.

[xi] Seidman, Robert. “Updated Thursday Ratings: ER finale draws 16.2 million viewers.” TVBytheNumbers.com. 03 April 2009. 30 April 2009 <http://tvbythenumbers.com/2009/04/03/thursday-ratings-er-draws-163-million-viewers/15864&gt;.

[xii] Gorman, Bill. “Nielsen Network TV Ratings Season To Season.” TVbytheNumbers.com. 29 April 2009. 2 May 2009 <http://tvbythenumbers.com/category/nielsen-network-tv-ratings-season-to-date/nielsen-network-tv-ratings-season-to-season&gt;.

[xiii] Seidman, Robert. “Updated Thursday Ratings: ER finale draws 16.2 million viewers.” TVBytheNumbers.com. 03 April 2009. 30 April 2009 <http://tvbythenumbers.com/2009/04/03/thursday-ratings-er-draws-163-million-viewers/15864&gt;.

[xiv] Jancovich, Mark and Nathan Hunt. “The Mainstream, Distinction, and Cult TV.” In Cult Television, edited by Sara Gwenllian-Jones and Roberta E. Pearson, 27-44. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

[xv]“Supernatural (WB) Reviews from Metacritic.” Metacritic.com. 12 April 2009 <http://www.metacritic.com/tv/programs/supernatural#critics&gt;; Lowry, Brian. “Supernatural Review.” Variety.com. 11 Sept. 2005. 23 April 2009 <http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117928111.html?categoryId=32&cs=1&gt;.

[xvi]Supernatural (WB) Reviews from Metacritic.” Metacritic.com. 12 April 2009 <http://www.metacritic.com/tv/programs/supernatural#critics&gt;.

[xvii] Andrejevic, Mark. “Watching Television Without Pity: The Productivity of Online Fans.” Television & New Media 9 (2008): 24-46.

[xviii] Jancovich, Mark and Nathan Hunt. “The Mainstream, Distinction, and Cult TV.” In Cult Television, edited by Sara Gwenllian-Jones and Roberta E. Pearson, 27-44. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

[xix] “TV Guide Most Popular Shows.” TVGuide.com. 2 May 2009. 2 May 2009 <http://www.tvguide.com/top-tv-shows&gt;.

[xx]Wieselman, Jarret. “Supernatural has TV’s best titles.” New York Post’s PopWrap. 15 Dec. 2008. 2 May 2009 <http://blogs.nypost.com/popwrap/archives/2008/12/supernatural_ha.html&gt;; Wheat, Alynda. “Supernatural: Sexy. Scary. Over?” EW.com. 10 April 2009 <http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20270843,00.html>.

[xxi] Ryan, Maureen. “Supernatural questions and answers as the finale approaches.” Chicago Tribune’s The Watcher. 1 May 2009. 2 May 2009 <http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/entertainment_tv/2009/05/supernatural-winchester-jim-beaver-cw.html#more&gt;.

[xxii] Andrejevic, Mark. “Watching Television Without Pity: The Productivity of Online Fans.” Television & New Media 9 (2008): 24-46; Costello, Victor and Barbara Moore. “Cultural Outlaws: An Examination of Audience Activity and Online Television Fandom.” Television & New Media 8 (2007): 124-43.

[xxiii] Andrejevic, Mark. “Watching Television Without Pity: The Productivity of Online Fans.” Television & New Media 9 (2008): 24-46

[xxiv] Surette, Tim. “TV.com Q&A: Supernatural creator Eric Kripke.” TV.com. 10 Jan. 2008. 11 March 2009 <http://www.tv.com/story/10682.html&gt;; “Red Sky at Morning.” Supernatural. The CW. 8 Nov. 2007.

[xxv] “The Monster At the End of This Book.” Supernatural. The CW. 2 April 2009.

[xxvi] Porter, Patrick. “The Uncomfortable Cult: How Novelty and Subverted Expectations Generate a Cult Following in Contemporary Fantastic Television.” Refractory 1 (2002); Johnson, Derek. “Inviting Audiences In: The spatial reorganization of production and consumption in ‘TVIII’.” New Review of Film and Television Studies 5 (2007): 61-80.

[xxvii] Kripke, Eric, David Nutter and Peter Johnson, commentary. Pilot. Supernatural: The Complete First Season, 2005. DVD. Warner Home Video, 2006; Sconce, Jeffery. “What If? Charting Television’s New Textual Boundaries.” In Television After TV: Essays on a Medium in Transition, edited by Lynn Spigel and Jan Olsson. 93-112. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2004.

[xxviii] “Hook Man.” Supernatural. The WB. 25 Oct. 2005; “Scarecrow.” Supernatural. The WB. 10 Jan. 2006; “Bloody Mary.” Supernatural. The WB. 11 Oct. 2005.

[xxix] Smith, Paul. “Contemporary Legend on Film and Television: Some Observations.” Contemporary Legend 2 (1999): 137-54.

[xxx] “Tall Tales.” Supernatural. The CW. 15 Feb. 2007; “Mystery Spot.” Supernatural. The CW. 14 Feb. 2008.

[xxxi] Sconce, Jeffery. “What If? Charting Television’s New Textual Boundaries.” In Television After TV: Essays on a Medium in Transition, edited by Lynn Spigel and Jan Olsson. 93-112. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2004.

[xxxii] “Hush.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 14 Dec. 1999; “The Post-Modern Prometheus.” The X-Files. FOX. 30 Nov. 1997.

[xxxiii] “Ghostfacers.” Supernatural. The CW. 24 April 2008.

[xxxiv] “The Monster At the End of This Book.” Supernatural. The CW. 2 April 2009.

[xxxv] Johnson, Derek. “Inviting Audiences In: The spatial reorganization of production and consumption in ‘TVIII’.” New Review of Film and Television Studies 5 (2007): 61-80.

[xxxvi] Wheat, Alynda. “Supernatural: Sexy. Scary. Over?” EW.com. 10 April 2009 <http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20270843,00.html>.

[xxxvii] Jancovich, Mark and Nathan Hunt. “The Mainstream, Distinction, and Cult TV.” In Cult Television, edited by Sara Gwenllian-Jones and Roberta E. Pearson, 27-44. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

[xxxviii] Porter, Patrick. “The Uncomfortable Cult: How Novelty and Subverted Expectations Generate a Cult Following in Contemporary Fantastic Television.” Refractory 1 (2002): 3.

[xxxix] Porter, Patrick. “The Uncomfortable Cult: How Novelty and Subverted Expectations Generate a Cult Following in Contemporary Fantastic Television.” Refractory 1 (2002): 3.

[xl] Gorman, Bill. “Nielsen Network TV Ratings Season To Season.” TVbytheNumbers.com. 29 April 2009. 2 May 2009 <http://tvbythenumbers.com/category/nielsen-network-tv-ratings-season-to-date/nielsen-network-tv-ratings-season-to-season&gt;.

[xli] Hills, Matt. Fan Cultures, 137. London: Routledge, 2002.

[xlii] Kompare, Derek. “Producers, Publics, and Podcasts: Where Does Television Happen?” FLOW TV 3 (2006): 1.

[xliii] Porter, Patrick. “The Uncomfortable Cult: How Novelty and Subverted Expectations Generate a Cult Following in Contemporary Fantastic Television.” Refractory 1 (2002); Jancovich, Mark and Nathan Hunt. “The Mainstream, Distinction, and Cult TV.” In Cult Television, edited by Sara Gwenllian-Jones and Roberta E. Pearson, 27-44. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

[xliv] Mittell, Jason. “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television.” Velvet Light Trap 56 (2006): 29-40; Sconce, Jeffery. “What If? Charting Television’s New Textual Boundaries.” In Television After TV: Essays on a Medium in Transition, edited by Lynn Spigel and Jan Olsson. 93-112. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2004.

[xlv] Snyder, Gabriel. “Firefly feature alights.” Variety.com. 21 March 2004. 12 April 2009 <http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117901954.html?categoryid=13&cs=1&gt;.

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