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Creators: Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas
Starring: Andrew Airlie, Bret Harrison, Missy Peregrym, Ray Wise, Rick Gonzalez, Tyler Labine, Valarie Rae Miller
Airs: Tuesdays, 9pm on The CW
The CW’s Reaper turned out to be exactly what I expected, in many respects. As it was promoted, this new series is a dark comedy that centers on a guy named Sam (Harrison) who learns that his parents sold his soul to the devil before he was even born. When he turns twenty-one, the Devil informs him that in order to pay back the debt, Sam has to capture escaped souls and return them to hell where they belong.
Seems simple enough. It is – kind of. Here’s the thing about Sam. He’s a total underachiever who dropped out of college because it “made him sleepy” and now works at a Home Depot-type store with his buddies Sock (Labine) and Ben (Gonzalez). Then there’s Andi (Peregrym), the hot girl whom Sam adores but doesn’t have the nerve to ask out despite her obvious affection for him.
The pilot episode focuses on Sam coming to grips with the ridiculous reality of his situation, the powers he now has (dog’s seem to be obsessed with him and he also has telekinetic powers), figuring out how to take down the first big bad and finally, dealing with his friends and family throughout the ordeal. It was that final aspect of the pilot that I found the most interesting, as it really seemed to set up Sam’s character as more than just a slacker-type.
Sam might not care about college or a career outside of the wholesale hardware industry, but he does seem to genuinely care about his family and friends. And what’s more, they all genuinely care about him. It is explained towards the beginning of the episode that before he was born, Sam’s parents were approached by the Devil when Mr. Oliver was very sick. They were offered a cure in exchange for the soul of their first-born. Since they had no kids and were told by a lying doctor that Mr. Oliver was infertile, they figured they were in the clear. Then Sam was born, followed by their second son, Keith.
Assuming Sam would have to fork his soul over to the Devil on his twenty-first birthday, the Olivers never put any pressure on him to succeed. Instead they focused all of their parental energy on making sure Keith excelled in school. This explains why Keith’s trying to get into a good college and Sam’s got no plans for the future. The Olivers are visibly distressed over Sam’s plight and it is when Sam lies to his mother, saying he just had to do one easy thing for the Devil and the debt has been cleared, that we learn that this guy is actually a decent, caring person.
We also see his protective nature kick in when he refuses his friends’ help after their initial attempt to take down the scary fire-man. When Ben is burned badly, Sam pushes Andi (who has no idea about this Devil-related destiny) and Sock (who is totally on board with the mission) away and tries to go it alone, only to find that the task is much trickier than he realized. In the end, he allows Sock (and indirectly, Sock’s ex-girlfriend, Josie) to help him defeat the bad guy. Chances are, the future missions will also require the support of his friends, which is why it’s a good thing that Ben and Sock seem so enthusiastic about it, despite the mortal danger involved.
So as you can see, there are actually multiple elements that will drive this series forward. The relationship between Sam and his friends and family will prove to be very important to the story. In terms of the entertainment value for us, I think the humor is going to be the thing that keeps us coming back.
While the premise of the show might be fairly serious, the execution is anything but. Since Ben spent most of the episode in the hospital recuperating from his burns, we didn’t really get to see how much he’ll add to the dynamic of the group. Sock, on the other hand, was present throughout almost the entire episode and his not-quite-witty remarks are definitely laugh-worthy for those of us who get a kick out of this kind of ridiculous, albeit juvenile humor.
One might say that there’s almost a Jay and Silent Bob dynamic between Sam and Sock, though I could just be saying that because Kevin Smith directed the pilot episode for the series. In truth, Sam’s not totally silent but like the Clerks duo, when it comes to being loud, occasionally obnoxious and ridiculously funny, Sock has the role down.
As for the Devil, Ray Wise was cast perfectly for this role. He plays his part with the cool, calm and subtly scary (without being campy) demeanor that one might expect from the Prince of Darkness, if he were to don a suit and walk amongst the living. While the Devil acts friendly enough, he does take a moment to demonstrate to Sam what happens to people who don’t pay their debt to him. Let’s just say, it involves a zamboni and it’s not pretty.
When you look at current television, you’ll find plenty of comedies and super-hero shows. Reaper blends the two genres, giving viewers a series that centers on a character that most of the people who will love this show can relate to. Sam’s circumstances are obviously very unique but the humor will definitely help not only to make the series entertaining, but also to keep it grounded enough for regular people to follow and enjoy.
In terms of the future of Reaper, my only fear is that The CW will fumble the ball with this show. My doubts about the network’s ability to properly market a good series are no secret. The fact that they decided to pass on Kyle Gass, who was a casting choice for this series once again suggests that The CW is a bit out of touch with their viewers. Gass would’ve surely brought in a fair amount of Tenacious D fans just as its very likely that Kevin Smith fans tuned in to the pilot based almost entirely on the fact that Smith directed it. Then again, based on the pilot, Reaper has a lot going for it so lets hope, for the sake of Sam’s soul, that the show will have a chance to build up a solid viewership.
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