Supernatural

The votes are in. Supernatural, The CW's little horror show about two monster-hunting brothers, has won TV Guide Magazine's first-ever Fan Favorite cover contest. Cast members Jim Beaver and Misha Collins aided with Tweets, as did a panoply of websites devoted to the series. When the 5.5 million votes were tallied, an impressive last-minute surge pushed Supernatural over the top. "We promoted, promoted, promoted the contest," says Alice Jester, who runs the site thewinchesterfamilybusiness.com. "We had a link on the site, we had a daily presence on Twitter and Facebook, and when Jim and Misha Tweeted, it energized the fans even more," she reports. "The fans wanted a TV Guide cover so badly. The show gives us so much, and the fact that it's small and underappreciated makes us work hard to get others to know about it, too."

Supernatural packs in plenty of action, gore and creepy creatures to satisfy viewers, but what earned the show so many hard-core fans is the familial bond between the Winchester brothers, Sam and Dean. Though that bond has been tested, it seems unbreakable, having been forged with the loss of their parents to demons and their chosen duty to save humanity — and each other — from forces of both heavenly and hellish origins.

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For Jester, who values "the perfect mix of humor, drama, action and suspense," it's the chemistry between leads Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki that seals the deal. "When they're on screen together, something extraordinary happens. You believe they're brothers." Beaver, the veteran actor who plays Bobby Singer, the brothers' curmudgeonly mentor, agrees: "I used to think for fans, it was about blood and guts and scary stuff yelling 'Boo!' I don't think so any more. This show has a lot of heart, and the fans really care about the relationships."

"We have an incredibly loyal, devoted — and aggressive — fan base," confirms Ackles, who plays Dean, the older Winchester brother. "We don't get a whole lot of attention, so it's nice when the show can get recognized, not only for us, but for the fans as well. They like to brag about the show."

And vote for it. Like most genre shows, Supernatural has mostly been ignored during awards season, despite its deftly entertaining scripts and cast. In its fifth season, however, it won the 2010 People's Choice Award for Favorite Sci-fi/Fantasy Show, beating out True Blood and Lost, among others. The cast helps solidify that attachment with their attendance at Comic-Con in San Diego, as well as Supernatural conventions around the world. "We stay in touch with our fans," says Padalecki, whose character, Sam Winchester, has caused agita both on the show and among viewers since he lost his soul in Hell trying to stop the Apocalypse — and doesn't want it back. "They're all so supportive," he says. "It's not, 'Y'all are cute!' They actually ask questions about plot points."

Not that the two Texas-born actors' good looks go unnoticed. "At a convention in Australia," reports Beaver, "a woman lifted her shirt, and her entire back had a tattoo of Jared and Jensen! I've seen a lot of cleavage with Supernatural tattoos as well." It's not just women who get inked for the guys, Padalecki says: "I was on a plane recently with my wife [Genevieve Cortese, who played the demon Ruby on the show] and a flight attendant showed me what he called his 'Sam and Dean tattoo,' the pentagram with symbols that our characters wear to ward off evil spirits."

But it's not all happy talk on the set this rainy Vancouver November day as they film "Like a Virgin," the first new episode of 2011 (airing January 28). It seems local virgins are being kidnapped by a dragon with massive wings, scales and a lair to keep its prey. And it's up to the flawed knights in an Impala to rescue the damsels in distress from their violent fates. "It's a good episode to watch if you're interested in our monster mythology," says longtime executive producer Sera Gamble, who took over as a show runner from creator Eric Kripke this season. "We answer the question of why, after all this time, this creature has returned now. There's a pretty big bombshell." Blame the Apocalypse, the episode's director, Phil Sgriccia, hints. After last season's epic struggle between Heaven and Hell, "the Earth is a bit off its axis, so all the monsters are out and acting differently. It's a new set of rules."

Dragon derring-do aside, most important for fans is the controversial arc about the rupture between the boys since Sam's return from Hell. "Fans are worried about the brothers," says Sgriccia. "And that's a good thing, because family is what the show is about." The story line comes to a head in "Appointment in Samarra," the mid-season finale (airing December 10), which Gamble says is "about how far each brother will go to get what they need."

For more scoop about Supernatural's upcoming episodes, check out this week's issue of TV Guide Magazine, on newsstands Thursday, December 9!

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