Fall TV Fun: “Reaper”

Grade:  A

Two episodes in, I unequivocally love this show.  Reaper makes Chuck pale in comparison.  The two share a basic concept—male underachievers who unwittingly enter a world of high intrigue and danger—but where Chuck rips off Alias hardcore, Reaper more gently takes off from Buffy International Airport.  On his twenty-first birthday, Sam Oliver (Bret Harrison) fends off his suddenly solicitous parents and heads to The Work Bench, where he punches a clock with his goonish best friend Sock (Tyler Labine) and love interest Andi (Missy Peregrym).  After a number of mysterious occurrences—Sam develops telekinesis and has odd visions of a burning house—a revelation appears, in the form of an unctuous managerial type (Ray Wise) who happens to be the devil.  Before Sam was even conceived, the devil says, his father was dying; to save his life, he and his wife promised the devil the soul of their firstborn.  Drafted by Satan, Sam becomes Hell’s bounty hunter, forced to track down escaped, malevolent souls in an entertaining fashion.

To return to the Chuck comparison:  The shows do share a concept, but whereas Chuck appears purchased into existence, Reaper is that concept as produced by Kevin Smith and the crew from Mystery Science Theater.  (By the way, Kevin Smith produced and directed the pilot.)  Reaper’s biggest asset is its ramshackle charm.  The special effects are delightfully cheesy, and the cast eschews high thespianism in favor of a laid-back, slacker camaraderie and charm.  Ray Wise has drawn attention, deservedly, for his turn as the devil, but my favorite character is Sock.  The character is pure stock (see Morgan on Chuck) and usually pure annoyance, but Labine manages to make me enjoy his presence.  Probably he got an assist from Smith, who in his movies did the same for Jay, but still, that’s quite a talent.  Reaper is my clear favorite this fall.

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