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TV Review: Never Judge A Show By Its Pilot – Reaper

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Reaper is a new comedy about Sam (Bret Harrison), a slacker who discovers on his twenty-first birthday that his parents sold his soul to the Devil (Ray Wise). I don’t have an issue with God, angels or the Devil depicted in human form. I do get tired of heaven or hell being depicted as having the same problems we have on earth like computer glitches, under-staffing or general mismanagement. Leave that for shows like The Office. I also want to note that this is the second show I've seen this fall where the main character is a twenty-something slacker (the first being Chuck). I don't know why having the hero be a twenty-something slacker bothers me but it does and I am sure I am not alone.

I watched the pilot. The best way to describe the show is Maynard G. Crebs from Dobie Gillis meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a hint of Ghostbusters. Sam works in a place comparable to Home Depot. On his twenty-first birthday he is approached by the Devil. It turns out that Sam's parents sold Sam's soul before he was born. Now Satan wants Sam to work as his bounty hunter and capture escapees from hell. Hell is currently having a problem with over-crowding. Satan didn't see it coming, and he blames himself.

I can suspend my disbelief on many things, but I don't understand why hell would have an over-crowding problem. I would think that over-crowding would be one of the main reasons that hell is hell. Satan arms Sam with a vessel to capture the escapee, an arsonist responsible for spreading fires. The vessel can be anything; in the pilot it is a Dirt Devil. Once the job is done, Sam has to deposit the vessel at the nearest portal to hell located anywhere there is hell on earth. For Sam, hell on earth is his local DMV. Assisting Sam in his mission is his best friend and coworker Sock (Tyler Labine) who makes Sam look like a contributing member of society.

In spite of my views on afterlife bureaucracy and the cliche that the DMV is hell on earth, this is a fun show. The show specifically targets the twenty-something demographic whereas Chuck targets a larger audience. Of the twenty-somethings I spoke to, they love Reaper. It speaks to them. I have to admit some jealousy. When I was a young twenty-something the big three networks and later FOX did not target my age group. They were targeting thirty-somethings. The belief at the time was that the 16 to 24 demographic was more interested in music than TV, except MTV (this is when MTV was still about music). Television executives like to take a good thing and then try to make it so it is appealing to a larger audience. I hope they don’t try to do that with this show. If the rest of the season’s shows are like the pilot the show might have some longevity, but I never judge a show by its pilot.

I saw the next episode, in which Sam has to capture Arthur Ferry, who was sent to hell for illegally selling off electricity to other states. In hell Arthur got electrical shocks everyday. On earth he is charged with electricity. By the end of the episode Sam captures his demon and deposits him at the DMV. The plot has the risk of predictability. The best part about the show is the characters, especially the Devil. This Devil appreciates the simple things in life like steak and eggs. He is also a romantic at heart… or whatever Satan has instead of a heart. In the second episode he does a little matchmaking between Sam and his coworker Andi (Missy Peregrym). I think the show would be better if the escapees from hell were more developed. Perhaps viewers would be more likely to tune in if there were guest demons. The really popular guest demons could escape hell again during sweeps. Britney Spears should be available.

To quote the Devil, “Isn’t Nature magnificent? Beautiful, angry, soothing, merciless. It’s perfection, don’t you think? Gotta give… what's-his-face credit”.

Stay tuned.

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