Reaper: Season 1
A lot of teens and young people in their twenties blame their parents for ruining their lives. While this may occasionally be true in most cases it is just their perception. All those young people who think they have a bad set of parents should take some time out to watch the CW series ‘Reaper’. It is about a young man, Sam Oliver (Bret Harrison) who discovers that when he was an infant his parents sold his soul to the devil. Now that he has turned 21 the debt is due and he has to work for Satan. Talk about getting blind sided by a really bad decision that you parents made; this is the ultimate. The series is fun to watch for teens through adults. It is too intense for the younger members of the household though. This show has the dark comedy edge that is more frequently part of a premium cable network than a broadcast station. In some ways it is reminiscent of the former Showtime series ‘Dead Like Me’. There is an undeniable energy to this show that makes it a fun watch. It is imaginative and intelligently written with a amiable cast that carries the series. The CW network, formed not too long ago by a merger between the WB and UPN, has stepped up to the plate trying to come up with something different to draw in the viewers. They do have their share of more conventional night time, youth oriented soap operas but they give a chance to quirky little series like this one. I tended to ignore it during the first run broadcasts but during rerun season I gave it a shot and instantly put it on my DVR as a regular. It is somewhat addictive. You get pulled into this strange world fast and have to find out what will happen next. If you have missed it then there is a chance to rectify this. Lion’s Gate has the DVD distribution rights and the first season is available for your home collection. This show was interrupted by the Writers Guild of America strike but the network had faith in it and finished out the first season with an additional five episodes. Word is the show has been picked up for a second season so catch up now with this DVD release.
The series was created and developed by Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas. Both have worked together on ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ as writers and producers. Fazekas also worked as an assistant to the executive producer on the ‘X Files’ so she knows about strange television series. I would have loved to have been the proverbial fly on the wall when they came up with this idea and again when they made their first pitch to the network. The thing is it is just odd ball enough to work. It also allows them to construct an entire mythology through the back stories. While it is a shame that so many shows died because of the Writer’s strike is was fantastic that the CW let them finish out the season arc. Once you watch you will understand that this series required as close to a full compliment of episodes as possible.
As mentioned Sam is 21 years old. Just before this all important birthday he began having strange and demonic themed dreams. His parents finally take him to the side and confess that long ago they made a pack with the devil. His father (Andrew Airlie) was very sick and his mother (Allison Hossack) made a deal with the devil that in return for the health of her husband they would give him their first born. The figured that would just remain childless. It should come as no surprise that the devil was up to some deception. He approached the Oliver’s doctor and offered to clear his gambling debt if he told the Olivers they were unable to conceive. A few months later Sam comes along. The Devil (Ray Wise) meets with Sam and tells him that he has to work for him as a reaper. This is basically a bounty hunter that recaptures souls that have escaped from hell. It must be pretty loose security down there since every week there is some dastardly and purely evil soul on the loose. Sam is always given a long wooden box that will contain the vessel to capture the soul. Usually they look like a regular object such as a ‘Dirt Devil’ vacuum. Once capture Sam has to take the vessel to a place where hell exists on earth; the Department of Motor Vehicles. This is the level of tongue in cheek dark humor that makes this series so great. If Sam refuses the soul of his mother will be forfeited and the escaped souls will kill innocent people.
Sam is by nature a slacker, college dropout. He makes a sloth look energetic. He still lives at home with his parents who considering the whole deal with the devil do have to cut him some slack, He works, well sort of, at the Work Bench, a Home Depot type outlet store. While trying his best to avoid actual work he hangs out with his two best friends Sock Wysocki (Tyler Labine) and Benji Gonzalez (Rick Gonzalez). Together they have elevated slacking to a science. They both know about Sam’s demonic side job and try their best to help but usually cause more problems. Every nerdy slacker needs a beautiful girl to fixate on. Here it is Andi Prendergast (Missy Peregrym). She is extremely smart but is the queen of the slackers. Deep in the back of the Work Bench store room Andi has created a hidden area in the boxes with a recliner, fridge, microwave and high definition television to help her avoid work. The Devil takes a special delight in advising Sam how to start a romance with Andi always making sure things go horribly wrong.
This series could have easily become just another freak of the week show. While there is always some horrible soul to get back they main focus of the series are the numerous arcs that tie everything together. Sam and his pals meet up with a pair of demons living together who help him learn the real mysteries surrounding his contract and his birth. There is also the relationship between Sam and Andi that gets close to fulfillment but is comically torn apart at every turn. This is a character driven series and the actors are fantastic. Harrison is perfect as Sam. He wants to do the right thing but that often takes a lot of energy and he is not used to that. Over the course of this season he learns a lot about responsibility to others. The real treat is Wise as the Devil. He looks nothing like the usual red dude with horns and a tail. He is sarcastic, slick and always ready for a practical joke. He plays this as the quintessential devil; a nice guy who enjoys sending you to hell. Peregrym is wonderful to watch. She looks so together but is just one of the slacker boys in most situations. She has grown up as a tom boy but now wants to be appreciated as a woman.
This is a special series; quick witted and funny. You should really give it a try. Something different is increasingly rare on regular television and work like this needs to be supported by the viewers.