Don't Fear Reaper

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I’ve got a fever! And the only answer is more Reaper.

This new CW series is one of the more pleasant surprises of the new television season. No, it’s not going to affect you deeply, change your world, make you laugh or cry or become a part of you. But it’s a fun-enough diversion in an otherwise too-serious season so far.

The concept is about as high as you can get, as were the creators of the series, I’d bet, when they came up with this. Some parents sell their kids’ soul to the devil, the devil comes to collect, kid ends up being Satan’s bounty hunter for “escaped souls”— a good guy working for the devil, catching bad guys. Give him a sweet love interest and a couple of goofy buddies, and -bamf-, you’ve got a series.

Most of the cast is pretty good, if not all that memorable so far. The main character is played by Bret Harrison, who most will remember as playing basically the same character (minus the debt to Satan) on The O.C. Missy Peregrym is the love-interest, most memorable as the illusion-casting villain Candice on Heroes. And Tyler Labine is the portly manic pal, who comes off here as Jack Black 2.0.

But the real revelation in Reaper is Ray Wise as the Devil. (Leland Palmer from Twin Peaks has come a long way from Washington state to ruling Hell.) Wise is brilliant in this role; all charm and menace intertwined, and slick as a (blue) oyster. He’s the cock of the walk, baby, and Wise plays it perfectly, with a car-salesman smile and casual damnation in his hip pocket.

Sure, there’s the danger here of this becoming somewhat rote — the Smallville rut of the “freak of the week” appearing, killing some folks, and then being defeated with little to no long-term ramifications. But those are logical considerations, and Reaper doesn’t really aspire to be much more than a fun way to spend an hour. This isn’t an examination of evil, or even a Buffy-like semi-serious look at young-adult supernatural butt-kickers. This is just for laughs, and in that, it works.

Will it stick around? Probably. After all, it’s on a network that really doesn’t have a whole lot going for it at the moment. Low expectations, baby. It’s like the dating advice my uncle once gave me: Aim low, and you’ll score every time.
-- Teague Bohlen

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