So, a funny thing happened as we went through our busy summer. I think it was a mention somewhere on Twitter that it was the ten year anniversary of Castiel’s first appearance. It rang a bell. “Wait a second, I started this site a little before Castiel made his first appearance. Could it be...” So I dug into our archives. Oh yes, our tenth anniversary came and went and we didn’t even know it!
But really, did it? While pinpointing the date of the very first posted article might seem like the true anniversary date, the first year of The Winchester Family Business proved to be more of an evolution rather than one true launch. We had multiple launches that year as I tried to figure things out. It took a long while to build The WFB into the site you know today. We decided that such a milestone deserved more than quick mention on one specific day. So much has happened in the last ten years! We have chosen to take moments throughout season fourteen to celebrate. We will run our new tenth anniversary banner all season (artfully done by our own Lilah Kane) and take time during various breaks and other occasions in S14 to look back at our time as a part of this extraordinary SPN Family.
How The WFB Came To Be
I still marvel to this day over how things came to be and how love of a TV show could mushroom to this. Our beginnings were humble and hardly ambitious. Back in late September 2007, when I was channel flipping, I came across the last ten minutes of this episode that caught my attention fast. I was instantly attracted to the chemistry of the actors and the overall tone of the show. A beautiful classic car really got me excited! Myself and my husband have always been huge Sci-fi fans and I wondered what this show was and why we never heard of it. I found out later that show was “Supernatural.” The episode? “All Hell Breaks Loose Part II.” Turns out it was the final repeat the week before the season three premiere.
After that night, curiosity got the better of me. Why had I never heard of this show? Why had I never heard of the CW network? How do I get to catch up on all I missed? The last part was somewhat easy. Netflix. Back then though, it was a different service. There was no online viewing. You requested a disc online and they sent it to you, one disc at a time! So I got the first four episodes of season one delivered to me. We were blown away. So I sent away for the second disc. A few days later, we watched the next four. Not as great as the first (I was definitely WTF?? over “Hookman” and “Bugs”) but I still wanted to know what happened next. I sent away for the third disc. That came almost a week later. By the time we were totally gobsmacked and in tears over “Home,” the hubby and I said, “Screw this.” I went out to Best Buy and bought seasons one and two. We still watch those sets to this day!
Our next few weeks, in between our very busy family activities, involved catching up on seasons one and two. When we were done, we watched again! (Fine, I skipped, “Hookman,” “Bugs,” and “Route 666” the second go around). Season two especially showed me how much this show was different from the rest and destined to by something great. I caught up with season three by buying the episodes on iTunes and my first live episode was “Fresh Blood.” We found ourselves with appointment television on Thursday nights! It was pretty damned exciting.
Going online to find like minded fans was my first instinct. After all, I had been a frequent visitor of the then popular website Television Without Pity since my days watching “The West Wing,” so finding the vocal group of “Supernatural” fans there was pretty easy. I eventually found myself at the CW Boards and LiveJournal as well. The passion of the fans was outright inspirational and something I had never witnessed before. It was very hard not to be sucked into that enthusiasm. It was also not hard to be sucked into the core mission at the time, “Save our Show!”
It’s really hard to believe but yes, “Supernatural” was on the brink of cancellation in season three. It barely earned renewal after season two and fans were anxious that this story wouldn’t get to be told. Long before there were the multiple fandom fundraisers and social causes, there were energetic “SOS” campaigns. The fandom’s deep frustration was that The CW, then a brand new struggling network, wouldn’t do anything to promote “Supernatural.” It was well known that the president of the network at the time didn’t care for the show and was favoring soapy teen shows like “Gossip Girl.” The SPN fandom decided to take matters into their own hands. They were going to spread the word in every way possible!
Season three was further complicated by a looming threat of a writer’s strike. It happened right around the time that season three was hitting it’s stride. Sadly, the writers did indeed go on strike on November 5, 2007, devastating us all and putting our favorite show in strike induced hiatus for months. The strike didn’t end until February 12, 2008, which was an eternity for a “Supernatural” fan! It didn’t help it took another few weeks for production to resume. Fans used the time to broaden their campaigns in all sorts of creative ways. I found myself inspired to write about these efforts during a time when people were craving for SPN material, especially after viewing one of my most favorite episodes ever aired on television, “Mystery Spot.”
I wrote my first article, “Supernatural: How a Show Manages to Succeed Despite it’s Network” and it was published by Blogcritics. It was an instant and huge hit, mainly because fans were trying to get the show recognized by any means possible and this was an ideal higher profile forum. Because of it’s popularity, I was given a weekly feature writing about “Supernatural” on Blogcritics, the article got attention of Warner Brothers giving me inside access to promotions and interviews, and next thing I know, my career as a blogger had begun in a big way! Oh, and I came up with a name for my feature column on Blogcritics, The Winchester Family Business.
In the summer of 2008, as part of my feature on Blogcritics, I started going back and writing retro reviews for the season three shows as they aired in repeats. Most of the other writers were cross posting their articles on their personal blogs, so I created one! On June 14, 2008, I posted my very first article on my new blog page, The Winchester Family Business, which was part of my home site, jesterz.net. It was a repost of my review on the episode “Sin City.” The site was a generic blue and white template and followed the traditional single article list blog format. I was the only writer and eventually found myself posting some small extras too that I didn’t post on Blogcritics, just to stir up some discussion to get through the summer hiatus. After all, we were all freaking out all summer about the end of “No Rest For The Wicked,” when Dean actually went to Hell! We were destroyed over a weeping Sammy cradling his dead brother’s body. No, none of us thought Kripke would go there. We were stunned and needed a lot of consoling that summer.
Two days before the season premiere of season four, I was abruptly let go from my regular day job. I was miserable there anyway, but it wasn’t a very kind dismissal. Kind of demoralizing actually. When I got home, there was a promotional package sitting on my front door. It was a preview package that Warner Brothers was sending out to all the bloggers. A disc with the first two episodes of season four were in there!!! So was a bible, a bookmark, and some general warnings about sharing spoilers. I sat down with the hubby, watched “Lazarus Rising” and we were speechless. Holy s***! We watched about three more times before taking in the second episode, “Are You There God It’s Me, Dean Winchester.” Suddenly, the woe of the lost job was a forgotten memory. I wrote up a preview article for Blogcritics and my new blog page and waited eagerly for two days in huge excitement for the rest of the world to see it. When I could finally discuss it with the rest of the fandom, it was a huge high for the next week.
By the way, the promotion worked. “Lazarus Rising” drew in 4 million viewers, the largest audience “Supernatural” had ever had for the CW at the time. It easily beat the 3 million that watched the season three finale. The show was getting recognition from the big entertainment outlets too and also got the attention of top notch TV critics like Maureen Ryan. Any talk of “Save our Show” pretty much ended after that premiere. “Supernatural” was finally a hit.
Now that I was well known blogger for a popular show, coupled with the fact that I was unemployed and had some time on my hands, I decided that my meager little Winchester Family Business blog needed a real forum. The hubby and I went to work on building a new site, one with darker colors and a layout that promoted my desire for obsessive fan discussion. After all, Kripke was throwing some really deep stuff at us and we had so much to analyze! The new site launched on December 15, 2008. I was still the only writer, but the discussions were starting to grow in numbers. I published articles three times a week, all articles designed to promote in-depth fan discussion and speculation. A short time later, our first site banner appeared.
In early March, 2009, we registered a new domain and The Winchester Family Business was no longer a page on my personal jesterz.net page. It was now a real site! We were forever immortalized in Google searches, www.thewinchesterfamilybusiness.com. Also, another writer joined me on the site, Elle2. I actually had a writing team! We stumbled our way through the rest of our season, trying out a variety of new things that we thought might be interesting. By the time the summer started, we were posting daily. The Winchester Family Business was on it’s way.
Fun WFB Facts
Here’s some other fun facts of what life was like when we were first getting started:
- Twitter wasn’t a thing. It was a thing, but it wasn’t widely adopted. A lot of social media was in it’s infancy. Misha Collins was the first high profile person from SPN to join Twitter, and that wasn’t until 2009. Facebook wasn’t very big either. Tumblr had only just been created. My Space was the big thing. Fans actually visited websites daily to talk about episodes and shows, not exchange tweets! Not having to maintain a social media platforms definitely made running a website much easier.
- Time Delayed viewing was far less of a thing. Most were DVR viewings. Online viewing, especially on the CW website, wasn’t available. One of my early “Save our Show” campaigns (with our dear friends at Support Supernatural) in season three was to make the show available online so people could get familiar with the show and catch up on what they missed. Once they saw it, they would be hooked! That’s exactly what happened when “Supernatural’s” catalog was made available on Netflix…in September 2012 (around the season eight premiere). A whole new generation of viewers has since adopted the show and the rest has been history.
- “Supernatural” conventions were just getting started. They were very small and nothing like the way they are now. What was the first one ever? November 10-11, 2007 in Chicago, and it was a joint convention with “Smallville,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel.” The first solo one was March 29-30, 2008 in Los Angeles.
- For the first year of our existence, I rarely posted news and spoiler articles (unless it was something big), and didn’t have any of our signature fun stuff like Motivational Posters, slideshows, and Caption This! Everything evolved through the years as we added some insanely creative staff members.
- On a personal level, my children were 7 and 3 years old when “Supernatural” started. Now they’re 20 and 16 respectively. They’re part of the “second generation” of viewers that have adopted the show since I started blogging. If you think that “Supernatural” got it’s start with a mostly middle aged female audience, you’d be very much correct. They’ve been telling their friends, who have only found the show in the last few years, “We grew up watching Jared and Jensen.”
I have enough fandom stories to fill a book so I’ll spare you all more tales until another time. I’ll close with one question I’m often asked, “Did you ever think that you would be doing this ten years later?” Heavens freaking no! I got into this to help save a great cult show from the brink of cancellation during a bout of unemployment. If you had told me back then that the show would find a big audience, go for fourteen plus seasons, end up attracting multiple generations of viewers, and become a cornerstone for grass roots humanitarian and charitable causes, I would have demanded some of those really happy drugs you were taking. “Supernatural” continues to defy all logic and we can proudly say that we have hung on for this crazy SPN Family ride. Kind of warrants some sort of celebration, don’t you think?
In honor of our anniversary, below is our scroll of our banners through the years.