I can imagine Eric Kripke was feeling a little cheeky by the time “Hollywood Babylon” came along. Things weren’t going well with their new network and Supernatural was on the brink of cancellation. It didn’t help that at the time the show wasn’t getting a lot of promotion or support from the brass at the CW because the president at the time didn’t get genre shows and the network had no money. So, leave it up to Kripke to green light an offbeat script from a master craftsman in humor with the right amount of subtle jabs at the business that they were getting swallowed up in while remaining true to the horror genre. He had nothing to lose. We as viewers got a major win!
This script is a smorgasbord of rapid fire of inside jokes of the TV and Film industry as well as Supernatural itself. Ben Edlund had a bit of a pedigree before he came to Supernatural. Not only was he the creator of the comic book series “The Tick” as well as the same titled TV series (with the reboot coming after SPN) but he wrote for Firefly, Angel and Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog before he worked his way to Supernatural. He knew a bit about how you could really bend things in a genre theme with pointed comedy and parody. But doing that for only your second episode on a horror show? He had to make it good and memorable. Boy did he.
One Hell of a PA
This episode came after the devastating “Heart,” so lighthearted was really needed. It was kind of the last gasp of fresh air before digging into the heavy stuff that closed out season two. It all starts with what looks like the same set used for “Roadkill. The scene is a horror movie set now, and we’re learning a bit about what goes into some of those horror scenes. It’s not as glamorous as we think! I can’t imagine Jared and Jensen reacting with huge fright at a tennis ball, but that’s probably why they’re great actors. It takes something way more brutal, a bloody and dead stagehand in the rafters, to get Tara Benchley screaming, and a mystery is born.
Like most of the season two episodes, there were some firsts in “Hollywood Babylon.” This episode first brought Hell Hazers to the SPN Verse. It was mentioned a few other times throughout the series. This is the first time that an Enochian spell is mentioned, something that became very relevant in season four and beyond. This is also where Edlund parodies a real person on the show, a trick he did again in a much bigger scale in season six’s “The French Mistake.” The main director/producer in the episode, McG, was actually a producer for Supernatural at the time. The real McG was even one of the extras in a scene! A guy who loved a good inside joke.
It’s really, really fun to watch Dean in this episode. Talk about a kid in a candy store! Couple this episode with the next one, “Folsom Prison Blues” and it’s a real joy to see Dean when he’s in his element. This is the confident and fun Dean I wish they showed more in the later years. This setting highlights what a huge movie geek he really is. He even recognized the “dead actor” because he knew all the B-movies the guy was in. Getting to meet Gerard St. James was a real thrill for him, even if he was a part of a Hollywood scam to add fake buzz to the film. Ditto with his attraction for the movie’s lead, Tara, since he was a big fan of her films. It does get him laid in her trailer at the end. There’s a ton of delicious free food on the set too! It’s the Dean dream world all around. This is one of my favorite episodes for Dean. He definitely earned his praise. You’re one hell of a PA, Dean Winchester.
Sam was understandably sour, but he did ultimately solve the case by tapping into his lore knowledge. So he helped. But man did I wish he could have seen some of the cast members of The Gilmore Girls. Although, Sam has one of my favorite lines in the episode. After watching through dailies for several hours, a low key Sam deadpans, “You know, maybe the spirits are trying to shut down the movie 'cause they think it sucks. 'Cause, I mean, it kind of does.” See, Sam still does have his sense of humor despite everything.
The mystery is really clever too. It's plausible, considering all the old stories that exist in Hollywood. A lot of hidden scandals through the years! There's sure to be some old ghosts floating around. What happens if a guy who happens to know black magic decides to write a genuine script on how to summon these spirits? Simple, this is Hollywood, which means it will be watered down and completely changed to something more…simplistic. You know, the cheap stunts that sell. No wonder the guy wanted to kill everyone. I just love this dialogue:
Walter: You know, the history, the lore in my draft was completely accurate. We could've gotten it right for the first time ever in this whorehouse of a town. But, you tore it to shreds. You replaced it with cleavage and fart jokes. It was real.
Marty: Who gives a rat's ass about "real"?
Or when the altercation between Walter, Sam, Dean, Marty, and ghosts end up in the movie - cell phone, shotgun loaded with salt, and all. McG loves it! Sam, not so much.
Sam: You find out there's an afterlife, and this is what you do with it?
Marty: I needed a little jazz on the page.
Aside from all those subtle little jabs of life in Hollywood, this is not an episode that really needs analysis. For the rest of the review, I’m just going to list the inside jokes. This might get long!
- McG: Oh, that is just for CG registration. Now, when Ivan and the FX guys are done, it is going to look terrifying.
Ivan Hayden was the visual effects supervisor for Supernatural at the time.
- Now, to the right, here is Stars Hollow. It's the setting for the television series, Gilmore Girls. And if we're lucky, we might even catch one of the show's stars.
Love that Sam got real uncomfortable and bailed on the tour quickly! Or how about this reference?
And then up to the right here we have New York Avenue, and that's where they shot Lois and Clark.
Quite a few people came to Supernatural from Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, the most notable being executive producer Robert Singer. His wife Eugenie Ross-Leming, her writing partner Brad Buckner, director Phil Sgriccia and producer Jim Michaels all came from that show as well.
- Dean: Yeah, for a vacation. I mean, swimming pools and movie stars! Not to work.
Sam: This seem like swimming pool weather to you, Dean? I mean, it's practically Canadian.
Hee, love that it’s addressing the fact that they’re shooting a Hollywood episode in Canada. All that was missing was the maple leaf. (Something well addressed in “The French Mistake”).
- Brad: No, look, don't get me wrong. Everyone at the studio loves the dailies, myself included. We were just wondering if it could be ... you know, a little brighter?
Brad: Yeah, Jay. More color. McG, you know what I'm saying, you're the master of that stuff.
McG: Brad, this is a horror movie.
Brad: Yeah, and who says horror has to be dark, you know? It's just, it's sort of ... depressing, don't you think?
Gary Cole’s studio executive Brad was a creation based on all the notes that Kripke and company would get from The CW. He was even wearing a suit, which matches the term that the executives are “suits”. Plus, who else but a middle aged male studio executive would follow a naked female ghost to his death? If anyone knows anything about Hollywood then (and who knows maybe still), it’s a boys club.
- Dean: Yeah. My big break. You know, I know it's ... really uncool to say this, but I–I'm a big fan. I loved you in Boogeyman.
Tara: Oh, God, what a terrible script. But thank you.
Eric Kripke wrote Boogeyman. To this day he jokes about how bad that script was!
- Brad: No, no, no, no, look. It's a great scene, really, dynamite. But I've still got a few ... not ... not problems, just questions.
McG: Like what?
BRAD Well, for one thing, the rules aren't really landing for me. Like, the kids do this Latin chant, and that makes the ghosts show up?
BRAD See, but if the ghosts are in Hell, how do they hear the chanting? I mean, what do they have, super-hearing? It's a logic bump. The rules don't track.
McG: Marty, you're the writer.
Marty: What if I throw in an explainer?
Brad: Yeah, that'd be super.
Mitch: When we read from that book, we must have brought them back. Back from Hell.
Kendra: But I don't understand. If they were in Hell, how could they hear our chanting?
Mitch: They must have super-hearing!
I find it really funny that Brad fell to his death right after that comment about super-hearing. Projecting much Mr. Edlund about executive interference? Timing is everything! Yet it doesn’t end there. The laughs continue next scene.
Marty: Jay, the poor bastard killed himself. Like, for real. Shouldn't we shut it down or something?
Jay: We had a moment of silence for him at breakfast. He was just a studio guy.
- Tara: I, I I just can't wrap my head around the dialog, you know? Salt? Doesn't that sound silly? I mean, why would a ghost be afraid of salt?
Still hysterically laughing! I’m know this conversation happened on SPN forums around the time. The writers were known to read them.
Then there’s this. My favorite inside bit, Monster Truck! It’s way better than the actual racist truck in “Route 666.”
Overall grade, an A. Just a real fun hour when we needed it the most. It’s also an ideal preview of what Ben Edlund would bring to the table for this show.