‘Supernatural’ breaks down fourth wall

CW series puts loyal followers in middle of action

Earlier this season, “Supernatural” creator and executive producer Eric Kripke wrote an episode, “The Real Ghostbusters,” in which main characters Sam and Dean Winchester attended a fan convention for …”Supernatural.”

“We were well aware of the real-life ‘Supernatural’ conventions,” Kripke recalls, “and how ardent and passionate the fans are. That seemed like too good an idea to pass up.”

The storyline took a lighthearted look at the series’ fans, right down to role-playing and the critiquing of plots.

“The idea for ‘The Real Ghostbusters’ came from our talented writer’s assistant, Nancy Weiner,” Kripke says. “She’s the one who first came up with the notion of a ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ writer who was detailing the boys’ adventures in a series of books. And she came to me with a simple concept: If there are fans of the books, they might have a “Supernatural” convention. And the attendees could LARP — live-action role-play — as Sam and Dean.”

This wasn’t the first time Kripke and his team involved fans in the show’s storylines. In season four’s “The Monster at the End of This Book,” the Winchester brothers found they had a colorful fan following because their lives were documented in a collection of books by a prophet.

How did fans react to these spoofs of their behavior? As with other episodes, some called Mr. Kripke a genius while others cursed his name. Either way, Kripke remembers how excited he and executive producer Ben Edlund got when given the chance to turn fan feedback around.

“It allowed us to make fun of ourselves,” Kripke says, “to parody some of the more absurd elements of the show — which, believe me, we’re aware of — but also gave us a way to let our main characters see their lives from a new angle, from the point of view of the fans themselves.”

Fans have been very protective of “Supernatural” since the early years when it sat on the renewal bubble. They’ve touted to whomever would listen how this unique yet under-the-radar program scares them and makes them laugh, cry and think, all within a sweeping demonic mythology.

Warner Bros. and the CW have joined in on the fun, keeping fans engaged by sending fan sites episode clips and sharing other show information through Facebook and Twitter.

Nearly 2 million DVD units have been sold through four seasons and there’s even a new web series, “Ghostfacers,” which extends the show’s storyline.

This passionate fan base has also grown internationally.

“?’Supernatural’ is very popular in Russia, because we’ve got a lot of “X-Files” fans and ‘Supernatural’ inherited all of them,” says Marta Kent, administrator for Supernatural.ru, one of the largest fan sites. “(It) is unformatted; it fits in no (single) TV genre, and our audience considers this an advantage.”

The best chance for Kripke, his producers, and his actors to interact in person with this avid base comes yearly at Comic-Con. There, both sides acknowledge that everything happens in good fun.

“Ripping down the fourth wall, and exploring some of the uneasy issues and conflicts that arise between fictional subjects, their creators and the fans who enjoy the work has been great fun for us,” Kripke says, “and something most shows don’t get the opportunity to do — because they’re generally not as insane or stupid as we are.”