Supernatural is the little engine that has kept on chugging for 12 seasons now, and few would've guessed it would last this long. The story of the Winchester Brothers, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles), and their quest to hunt and kill evil supernatural threats, has become a bonafide franchise with a deep mythos and sprawling set of allies, villains, and mythological figures.
As Supernatural continues its run through season 12, we look back to examine why this unique horror/drama/buddy-comedy has become the success that it has. Here's Why Supernatural Has Been So Successful.
It Came From a Singular Vision
Show creator Eric Kripke may not be as involved with Supernatural like he once was, but way back in 2005, he was part of the humble beginnings of a new showrunner-driven era in television. Kripke's unique vision and voice is what powered and shaped Supernatural into what it was; and later, it was his guidance and collaboration with the show's primary cast that allowed it to grow and change into something better and long-lasting.
These days, creator-driven shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, etc. are the expected norm - a standard that shows like Supernatural and creators like Kripke helped to establish.
If you don't think Kripke's presence is crucial, look no further than the failed spinoff pilot created without him, Supernatural: Bloodlines.
Supernatural started off on a dark and serious note, with The Winchester Brothers seemingly losing their father to a demonic attack. From there, the show settled into a format of being a 'monster of the week' investigative procedural, with a slow-burn serialized family drama as connective threading. However, when that format started grow stale after season 1 and 2, the show decided to do what few others can or do: it adapted.
By seasons 3 & 4, Supernatural was well on its way to becoming the series fans know and love today. While keeping the weekly episodic format, seasonal storylines also got more serialized and generally moved faster, while the show opened itself to a wider tonal variety, mixing dark horrific episodes with lighthearted and "fun" stories, which imported all sorts of pop-culture and/or horror staples into the mix (old movies, geek culture, musicals - the works).
Supernatural became the sort of show that a wide spectrum of geeks and horror heads could all embrace and enjoy for various reasons. By becoming one of the biggest geek TV brands to emerge during the rise of "geek chic" culture, Supernatural guaranteed its own iconic legacy.
It Embraced the Fandom
Many TV shows try to throw their weight behind marketing and promotion as the primary (sometimes only) means of attracting a wider and more loyal audience; Supernatural made the much smarter and more worthwhile move of building its fanbase grass-roots style.
The show has never been a ratings Juggernaut, but held steady over the course of its run with a couple million viewers on average, around a million of those in the key 18-49 demo. In the era of The Walking Dead, those numbers are small even for cable, but the loyalty of each Supernatural fan has proven to pay dividends.
Clearly the cast and crew of the show realized this early on, because Supernatural has been one of the most savvy properties about getting in early on fan-driven marketing. The show and its cast ) have been active in using social media and public appearances like the various comic-cons to boost their visibility, keep the fandom attached to the show, and keep extra money firmly in pocket. Best of all, it's not exploitative: Padalecki and Ackles have been especially genuine in their appearances, having fun with fans, treating them with the respect of valued customers, and often doing fun little things on the side as "gifts" (like that Supernatural Harlem Shake video).
It's no wonder then that fans are all too eager to immersive themselves deeper into the franchise, jumping into spinoff projects, writing fan fiction and turning the Winchester's show into an entire larger world.
The Actors Are Wonderfully Humble
As stated, show stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are just as rare and special as the show itself, and the creative minds behind it.
Ackles and Padalecki have gone twelve seasons strong, and have pretty much been consummate professionals - even gracious - the whole time. They appreciate their fandom and show them lots of love; there hasn't seemingly been a lot of feuding or drama, behind-the-scenes (even in those near-cancellation years); and the dreaded actor egos have not reared their ugly heads, causing personal or contract disputes, or pulling one or both actors away to pursue other avenues (movies, solo starring TV roles, etc.).
Ackles and Padalecki seem to be the rare stars to be happy and satisfied with their niche, committed to living it up as long as fans will have them. It's a refreshingly humble attitude to see from two big geek culture icons, and may be the biggest reason of all that fans have stuck with them so long.
Supernatural is currently airing season 12 Thursdays @ 9/8c on The CW.