Empty9-10 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25
"Reaper" is a fun show to watch but not to think about. The concept is imaginative, and the characters are enjoyable. The pilot is a hugely entertaining hour of TV. It's nicely positioned in the CW schedule and features several fine performances.
It just doesn't make much sense, though this is not likely to be a detriment in the world of TV fantasy.
In the pilot, Sam Oliver (Bret Harrison), a kindhearted slacker of whom little is expected, learns a terrible secret on his 21st birthday. His parents sold his soul to the devil (beautifully played by Ray Wise). Henceforth, Sam's job will be to capture escapees from hell and return them to that nether region. (Technically, he's more of a bounty hunter than a reaper, but that's the least of the inconsistencies.)
Creator-writers Michelle Fazekas and Tara Butters go to great lengths to explain that Sam's parents were not evil or dumb. Sam's father was seriously ill, and the devil promised a cure in exchange for the soul of their firstborn. His parents agreed, never intending to have children.
But then Sam's mother got pregnant. Hey, abortion was legal 21 years ago and, to a lot of people, preferable to bringing forth a child pledged to the devil. Obviously, that was not the route Sam's parents chose. Nor did they opt to tell Sam about his fate. All of which makes for a great scene when Satan literally pops up in the rear seat of Sam's car and fills in the backstory.
Satan, we quickly learn, really isn't such a bad guy. He looks out for the living by trying to protect them from escapees from his domain. In particular, he motivates Sam with pep talks and gives him courage and ambition he never had before. And he assures us that, in the end, God wins. You may find yourself wondering how such a nice guy ever got such a bad rap.
First up for Sam and his good pal, Sock (Tyler Labine), is an arsonist. Satan provides an instrument in which the evil soul is to be captured. Using it, at least initially, would shorten the pilot by five or six minutes and remove about half the special effects. So Sam pretty much ignores it until the third confrontation, thereby prolonging the battle between reaper and reapee.
If you had made a drinking contest out of finding logical inconsistencies, you'd be in an alcohol stupor right about now.
But why worry about all that when you can enjoy the unexpected thrills, the sweetness of Sam's crush on fellow box store worker Andi (Missy Peregrym), the occasional bits of devilish humor and Wise's silky smooth portrayal of Satan? The show is being bought and sold on its fun factor, and its future depends entirely on how much is put in succeeding episodes.
Executive producers: Michelle Fazekas, Tara Butters, Mark Gordon, Deborah Spera, Tom Spezialy, Kevin Smith
Producer: Joseph Patrick Finn
Director: Kevin Smith
Creators/teleplay: Michelle Fazekas, Tara Butters
Director of photography: David Klein
Production designer: Richard Hudolin
Editor: Peter Ellis
Music: David Schwartz
Set decorator: Jonathan Lancaster
Casting: John Papsidera, Coreen Mayrs, Heike Brandstatter
Sam Oliver: Bret Harrison
Bert "Sock" Wysocki: Tyler Labine
Satan: Ray Wise
Andi: Missy Peregrym
Josie: Valarie Rae Miller
Ben: Rick Gonzalez
Mr. Oliver: Andrew Airlie
Mrs. Oliver: Allison Hossack
Kyle Oliver: Kyle Switzer