Before watching last night's season premiere of Reaper, "A New Hope," I read several unpromising critical reviews on the show, so I wasn't sure what to expect. As much as I love reading Maureen Ryan (Chicago Tribune) and Alan Sepinwall (The Star-Ledger), they weren’t very kind in their reviews of the first three episodes of Reaper, harping on them as being nothing new. Granted, I’m at a disadvantage of not seeing the latter two episodes, but that “same old same old” is actually why I'm happy with last night’s episode. Television has been such a drag lately, and going back to something familiar and fun is an appealing alternative to another group of inferior contestants on American Idol. My TiVo took over the duties for that show.
The gang is back, and familiar feels good. Deconstructing Reaper doesn’t exactly take rocket science. It’s a fun goofy show that wants you to take it at face value. The camaraderie of Sam, Sock, and Ben is better than ever, especially Ben, who proves his worth this time. The Devil still makes me laugh out loud, too, reminding me why I keep watching.
I didn't mind the same MO for it works. This week’s assignment of capturing of 40 souls with a cattle prod makes its point, that when Sam is forced to think he actually entertains us. Sock's troubles, as usual, are amusing, this time when he meets his step sister. She’s oriental, hot, and has a very strange “big brother” complex, tickle fights and all. It’s quite sad that Sock and Kristen have way more sexual chemistry than Sam and Andi, whose time on the screen again felt like filler, dragging the episode a little. That’s probably why I always find myself rooting against them. It's a downside I can gloss over, though.
“A New Hope” is not short on laughs, like Sock’s blackmail of Ted to get their jobs back. There’s also the all-night drunken bender, complete with pizza box outfit and bad hair, just to come up with the quick idea to get the demons drunk (score one for Ben!). Also, in a hilarious visual, Sam is lowered via rope over the sleeping demons, hovering to the sounds of “The Nutcracker,” with cattle prod filling in nicely as a fairy dusted wand. The gut-grabbing moment for me, though, comes when Sam, using a cheesy picture book on Satan, summons his supposed real dad. He draws the circle and pentagram with chalk on the storeroom floor (a la Supernatural) and recites the summoning words, which are hardly the fancy Latin and elaborate phrases one would expect for this sort of thing. The Devil appears behind him and Sam is in awe that it worked. The Devil cleverly points out that it didn’t, since his pentagram looks like the Star of David. “Mazltov!”
In what I find to be a promising twist, the dynamic between The Devil and Sam changes. The Devil won’t go soft on Sam because they’re father and son (although I still question this supposed fact), calling him a “dud” just like the many others sires that disappointed him for not bringing Hell on earth. This doesn’t stop Sam one bit, and while fueled on hope after meeting someone that got out of his devil deal, Sam doesn’t let The Devil get the better of him in the end. The Devil throws Sam out of his car, appalled by this newfound perky attitude in his minion but at the same time encouraged by his potential for evil. Given their already strange relationship, any new developments just keep it fun.
I know that Reaper will never win critical acclaim or awards. Heck, a third season is very much in doubt. But for those of us that have grown to like these characters and want to have an hour of familiar mindless fun, it fits the bill nicely. I’ll be watching again next week. Welcome back, show!