Don’t Fear the Reaper
Who says Satan can’t be fun?
(Though he could use more cowbell :p).
Format: Half hour televisions show
Category: Narrative comedy
Premise: Slacker Sam Oliver (Bret Harrison) discovers that his parents sold his sold to the devil (Ray Wise) twenty years ago. Sam is forced to act as Satan’s bounty hunter, chasing and capturing souls that escape from Hell, aided by his two friends Bert aka “Sock” (Tyler Labine) and Ben (Rick Gonzalez), while trying to hold down a job and hide his demonic side business from his friend, co-worker and long-time crush Andi (Missy Peregrym)
Original Broadcast Channel: CW
Off the Wire Location: Netflix (entire series)
I watched the majority of the first season of Reaper when it originally aired in 2007, and I thought the concept was very clever. After a while, though, it got lost in the jumble of shows I was watching and I never got back to it. Eventually I heard murmers that it had been cancelled after 2 seasons and that was the end of it. When I saw it on Netflix, I decided to jump back in and see if my initial impressions had been correct.
It’s just as good as I remembered it. The pilot seems a lot more iffy now than it did then, but the writers and actors seem to hit their stride by the end of the second episode and keep the momentum flowing through the rest of the season.
The writing on the show is decent, but the casting is what really makes it work. Bret Harrison’s Sam acts as the traditional bland foil for the rest of the zany characters that inhabit his world for a while, but eventually he also manages to be interesting on his own, which is something that doesn’t always happen in half-hour comedies. Tyler Labine is Jack Black “light”: abrasive, funny, but also endearing and casual, without that obnoxious “look at me look at me!” quality.
And Ray Wise was the ideal choice for The Devil. His comedic timing is paralleled perfectly by his creepiness; he might be telling a joke, but you’re always kind of expecting him to rip your head off and eat your soul at any moment.
The must see episode: Leon. It’s not only the Halloween episode, but the soul they are capturing (a reformed hitman who is very into his therapy and rehabilitation) is played by Patton Oswalt. Funny, adorable, and kind of terrifying at times as well.
Now, because Season One is so much fun, you will want to watch Season Two. I’m going to have to ask you to try to resist that urge.
The second season still has a lot of what season one had, and more. Sam continues to grow as a character, and even Andi, the token “Love Interest,” begins to have a semi-interesting storyline of her own. This would have been enough to keep the show fresh, but the writers also decided to give Ben and Sock their own storylines and introduced 3 new major characters as well.
When shows make this mistake, they end up having to cover too much per episode just to keep up with the characters’ lives, and inevitably the show becomes more of a soap opera and less about the original premise, which in this case was of capturing souls and sparring with the devil. I hate to say it, but based on the direction the show took, I’m not surprised it was cancelled.
One bearable episode: The Sweet Science. Not because there was a particularly interesting soul to capture, but because of the great “Less Nessman” gag between Sock and Andi. Watch it and you’ll see what I mean.