I tried to watch it. As you might remember, Reaper was one of the shows I picked up watching new this year based on the premise. A 20something slacker, thanks to his parents’ malfeasance, is forced to work for the Devil on Earth, collecting escaped souls from Hell and sending them back to hell through, of all places, the DMV. He has wacky friends, the guy playing the Devil is awesome, there’s a cute love interest, and it’s got some funny.
How did it ever go wrong?
The pilot of Reaper was, quite honestly, one of the better things I’ve seen from the 2007 television season. The project was exciting enough to attract Kevin Smith, and the presence of Kevin Smith attracted more attention than any new show on the CW should have a right to get. It got a couple big word of mouth campaigns, lots of positive press from early reviewers, and got off to a really big start in terms of ratings.
I loved the first episode. I predicted the scope of the series from the beginning, with the villain of the week situation, but I thought it was great. Not too dark, but dark enough to keep it funny without making it too light. There was good chemistry between the two male leads, the love interest was cute enough, and while you could tell the pilot was directed by Kevin Smith, it was still visually nice to look at. Action direction is not his forte, of course, but he’s not exactly inexperienced with it at this point and he knows how to make cheap look relatively good.
Unfortunately, whoever took it on after the pilot completely botched things. The second and even third episodes had moments, but there was absolutely no progression. I know you have to take things slow, but don’t have to move at a glacial pace. Don’t take the hero in the first episode from completely wanting to avoid his destiny to embracing his new role, then reset everything in the second and third episode so he continues to try to weasel out of what he’d been embracing only the week before. Hesitance or insecurity is one thing, but completely reverting to default the next episode is pretty annoying.
Even more annoying is the complete lack of growth between the lead character Sam and his love interest Andi. Can we get a little more development here? Sure, I didn’t give it a lot of time to grow, but at the same time there should be some sort of positive momentum, shouldn’t there? Is that too much to ask?
Couple a stifling lack of progress with bad direction, and not even the excellent Ray Wise can make Reaper worth me finishing. It sits, waiting, gathering dust in my DVR as I ignore it. Apparently, I’m not the only one who turned the show off, as the ratings are low and all signs point to it being gone after this year. Perhaps putting it across from Lost and CSI in the States wasn’t a good idea. Or maybe the series just should’ve stayed focused and had a little bloody progression from episode to episode.
It’s a shame to see that the show is more than likely about to go, because it had promise. The premise is an interesting one, and the comedy/horror aspect could’ve worked really well. The real shame isn’t that the show is going to be cancelled, but that the show was bungled.
Hopefully Reaper will lead to more work for Ray Wise, who was great on Twin Peaks. If the show can do one thing right, it will be boost that man’s career. Otherwise, suck the show up in a vacuum cleaner and send it back to Hell, as its time on Earth is long since over.
Ron Hogan tried his best to avoid any death-related puns in this article, but kind of failed, much like the show failed in the ratings. Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.