TV Review: Supernatural - "Ghostfacers"
Before I get started, a belated Happy Birthday to Eric Kripke, who celebrated on Thursday. I only hope he wasn't stressing out too much about the airing of the latest episode and enjoyed himself instead. He shouldn't worry too much, for this episode was very well received.
"Ghostfacers" proved to be another of the great comical, standalone episodes this show manages to deliver once or twice every season. This one perfected the entire "mockumentary" genre, guaranteeing that it will be talked about for a while among the fans. These comedy episodes are usually fun for all involved, giving everyone a chance to let loose and forget about the mythology and intense character angst for a while. These episodes are always wildly creative, deliver memorable lines, and come with inside jokes that fans manage to catch with delight.
This episode is an extension of season one's "Hell House", the first of the light-hearted episodes to air for this series. As a reminder for the few that either haven't seen season one or don't remember that episode (how could you not!), we were introduced to the clueless ghost hunters Ed and Harry, the so called "Hellhounds", in Texas (the first time I saw that episode, I instantly noticed that Texas looked pretty lush, more like British Columbia). That episode let us know under no uncertain terms what happens when practical jokes, vivid imaginations, and the Internet culture collide. All I remember is Sam with itchy shorts and Dean with a beer bottle glued to his hand.
This is the third comical episode penned by Ben Edlund, and "Ghostfacers" had his fingerprints all over it. Since I've made no secret how much I adore his writing, I didn't need to see the credits (which were strangely at the end) to know whose work this was. He also wrote "Hollywood Babylon", which was a delightful self-mocking look at the making of a bad horror movie and "Bad Day at Black Rock", a strange slant from a curse of a rabbit's foot to explore the wacky perceptions of divine intervention vs. superstition, all while putting Sam through physical comedy hell and turning Dean into Batman. This time, Reality TV is the target, and oh, and how he got the parody right.
Parody Is Love, "Ghost Hunters" Fans
For anyone that has seen "Ghost Hunters", this mockumentary was pretty damn close. It started as the actual show does, showing "the team" getting together and planning their big new adventure. Of course, those trademark Ben Edlund under the radar jabs were used to inform the viewer that these were a bunch of losers that didn't have a clue what they were doing. Ed and Harry have the flexibility to ghost hunt and do their day jobs at the Kinkos (they can usually get off by six), and do their best to look legit with a faux slo-mo while hoping we won't notice their arrival came courtesy of an AMC Gremlin (the junk one can find on a studio back lot). We get to know Spruce, who is only 15/16 Jewish and the rest Cherokee, touting his Shamanologist title while getting pelted by golf balls. There's Corbett, Intern and Cook, who's not exactly ambiguous in his gayness, and Maggie, Ed's sister, who primarily plays the role of giving Ed and Harry a hard time. Of course, their major strategy session after work is foiled by Ed's dad coming home and opening the garage door, revealing that Ed has been reduced to living at home and running his ghost business out of his parent's garage. I thought the trailer park in Texas was bad.
By this time it should be apparent, since we are seven minutes into the episode before the first Sam and Dean sighting (not counting the true to the original Ghostfacers opening montage), and it's a brief one. Sam and Dean actually end up being supporting characters in this episode, and while I certainly don't want that to be a regular thing, I didn't mind it here. Given the colorful cast of characters that graced this episode (yet another Ben Edlund specialty), they delivered in a big way.
The team storm the house (Phase II: The Infiltration), and I squeal at the rumble of an engine off in the distance. Yes, it's our beloved Impala, and its blaring Grand Funk Railroad! Way to be conspicuous guys. It's right here that I caught the subtle comparison. Ed and Harry are the anti-Winchesters, and their classic AMC Gremlin is the anti-Impala. I'm issuing a challenge to you icon makers out there, I'd love to have one of the Gremlin with the caption, "The Anti-Impala". I can even turn it into a contest if there's enough takers.
Anyway, there's classic rock in the episode! The shaky amateur video approach must have saved the budget. I always thought this show would eventually pull out "Hocus Pocus" by Focus, but I freaked out my husband when I shouted "I knew it!" The song becomes the backdrop for setting up "Command Center 1", and I was too busy air guitaring to this classic jam song to notice what they did. The setup does involve one of the many gay jokes for the evening, and it was interesting to see Mr. Edlund take an overdone gag and throw his own creepy spin on it. Since clowns, dolls, and children are creepy on this show, why not gay?
It's Face Time! (aka Phase III). It feels exactly like I'm watching "Ghost Hunters". EMF readings, talking out to spirits while monitoring instruments, and cameras always rolling. Except this time, unlike the real show, there's an actual apparition. We are given the big hint for the rest of the episode, every time the camera goes weird, something bad is coming. In this episode though, a cut from a horrifying scene also makes us laugh, courtesy of the cheesy logo and theme song clip.
Twelve minutes in and finally Sam and Dean make their appearance. They're cussing! Oh, pretty please Mr. Kripke, can we see this every week? I don't care if it gets bleeped out. That seems like a more normal reaction to me when two guys face all those nasty things that want them dead or worse, tied up and forced to listen to Lesley Gore in a party hat, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Of course Sam and Dean did their homework, and death is looking pretty certain for everyone, except we know that won't happen. We get our first introduction to a death echo, which seems typical for a haunted house, but it was a cooler term than "ghost". The red shirt this week is Corbett, who disappears exactly when Sam and Dean said someone would. As a result, we get a Sam hissy fit! I loved the Grand Canyon reference, giving us continuity from "Croatoan". If anyone reads Krikpe's interviews, look for the actual visit to the Grand Canyon in season six.
The overexposed images of the Morton House were a great touch, yet another minor detail to remind us that despite the whole ghost thing and Sam and Dean's obvious worry, this is a cheesy reality show. The deer head appears! That's its seventh appearance in this series (thanks to supernaturalwiki.com for keeping track). Through some quick investigation from our boys, the MOTW turns out to be a supernatural pervert. Ewww is right. Anyone else notice how Dean's eyes lit up every time the flashlight and camera hit his face? Yeah, I'm sure a million or so of us did. No time to enjoy though, for there's more shaky camera work, more high readings, a grainy screen and oh no, Sammy's gone! Who didn't love the "Ghostfacers" logo popping over Dean as he was yelling for his brother?
Farmer Takes A Wife?? Uh"¦just"¦no. Yes, I had to watch the stupid commercials this time since I was watching live.
Back to the episode, and no matter what horrors, the cameras kept rolling. They were facing certain death, but the cameras made them feel better. I know Dean, I thought it was ridiculous too. What's a bad reality show without the cast drama, and we got it here, with Harry and Maggie getting it on while a stunned Ed discovers them. I always hate it when reality shows do that, so I giggled at the obvious setup here. They also included later the must have "someone has a big sob story that must be revealed." I'm shocked Dean almost told Spruce about the deal, but in true character, he stopped himself from falling for that typical reality show trick, complete with several F words. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki had to have a field day with that.
"It's My Party?" Oh the twisted humor. Nothing is sacred with this show, so now birthday parties can be added to the list. Was I supposed to laugh or be creeped out by Sam in a party hat? I was just disturbed, as I'm sure he was. I think the bomb shelter only existed as a setup for Dean to flip off the camera. Dean barges into the bomb shelter just in time to save Sam, but it's too late for our poor Corbett, who's now a death echo. That sets up a surprising emotional scene for this episode, and it's Ed who delivers. I enjoyed the brief glimpse of the human side from both these men instead of the incompetent part and felt every bit of their touching scene (not in a gay way thank you). Ed gets through, and Corbett ends up saving Sam, Dean and Spruce from our twisted spirit, but not before we get more cussing from Sam.
This part delivered another classic Ben Edlund premise, giving an unsung supporting character their big chance to play hero. He did it with Andy in "Simon Said", Ronald in "Nightshifter" and Elizabeth in "Malleus Maleficarum". Now we can add a soft spoken yet dorky gay guy by the name of Corbett to his growing list.
Back to commercials, and I've never seen Gossip Girl, but I read where it's the most watched show by teenage girls 12-17 years old and the Parents Television Council has an issue with the show's sexual themes. I saw the campy preview and forget sex, I don't want my teenage girl exposed to a bad TV show.
Anyway, there's still time left, so now that Corbett has so valiantly obliterated the ghost, I wondered what could possibly be next, and I wasn't disappointed. "We learned that gay love can pierce through the veil of death and save the day." I'm going to start using that quote at the bottom of my email messages and see how many people get the joke. "Go well into that starry night, young turk." So bad, it's funny. We even get the big confessional moment, another big reality show trick. They didn't leave any detail unturned.
It was clever how they found the right moment to show the credits at the end, when we were no longer watching the reality show. Even at the end, we get another great line, this time from Sam in the form of a sarcastic critique. "It's bizarre how you all are able to honor Corbett's memory while grossly exploiting the manner of his death. Well done." They usually end up with a straight jacket or a punch in the face? Or both? Oh, I think the Winchesters have suffered far worse than that in their pursuit of the truth. I did wonder how Sam and Dean were going to explain being on a TV show when they were supposedly dead. I would have never thought use an electromagnet and I'm an IT technician. I'll always love any closing shot of the Impala peeling away, but to the cheesy "Ghostfacers" theme? Oh show, go ahead, keep me laughing all the way to the very end.
One cannot have a tongue-in-cheek episode of Supernatural without the inside jokes. I loved the line "aren't those ***holes from Texas?", since Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are both from Texas. I enjoyed the comment about the writer's strike from Ed and Harry at the beginning, especially since this was the first episode back from the strike. How many reality wannabes have tried that pitch recently?
The story certainly went into far into gay humor territory. This type of humor is not something new to this show, since Sam and Dean have been mistaken for a gay couple before, but this episode took it to new heights. Sure, many could have taken offense by the homophobia, but I just took it to mean that Ed and Harry were completely clueless about being gay and exploited this new found "sensitivity" for all it was worth. That's what tools do.
As far as the comical episodes go, "Tall Tales" is still my favorite, but this one stood out in its own crazy way. Considering this year's heavy themes about Dean's deal, Sam's fall into darkness, and what's about to come (what an awesome preview for next week!), an episode like this was welcome. I'm still waffling between giving this one a grade of A- or B+, but with an episode like this, grade shouldn't matter. As long as we were entertained, it's all good.