We’re all about comics here at Panels On Pages, but a geek cannot live on comics alone. Outside the Longbox is our chance to spotlight something outside our typical 4-color realm, be it movies, music, TV or whatever.
I’m not a religious person. Anyone who knows me personally on any level will tell you this. Oddly enough, I’ve always been a fan of religious fiction. I don’t mean stuff like Left Behind or its ilk so much as a story that uses religious figures in its story in ways heretofore unseen. I can’t say it enough; Preacher is my all-time favorite comic book. Now, obviously, that’s a bit extreme in terms of its depictions of the pearly gates and all, but I love it. I was also really intrigued by NBC’s the Book of Daniel, but never got around to watching it (before they pulled the plug on it). I just thought the notion of this priest actually hanging out talking to Jesus could be pretty cool. Apparently I was one of the few. Hell, I even half-assed it by not watching the thing.
All of this brings us to Reaper. Hot diggity damn do I love this show. Sam’s parent sold his soul to the devil before he was born, so now he has to work for his evilness brining escaped souls back to Hell. That’s the 10-second pitch. The result is one of the most laugh-out-loud funny shows on TV right now. In fact, I don’t know that anything makes me laugh like Reaper. But how can a show about Hell and the Devil be funny? It mostly hangs on the characters, but the plot is great, too. Every week, Sam receives a vessel from the devil and a folder on an escaped soul. It’s very “freak of the week” in that regard, but the cast saves it from falling victim to the formula and some of the episodes treat the soul like an afterthought. The vessels range from dust busters to snow globes to Nerf guns to cattle prods. And of course, the Devil never bothers telling Sam how they work. His friends Sock and Ben are always along for the ride and have most of the best lines between the two of them.
The central conflict is Sam’s desire to escape the Devil’s servitude and finally build a relationship with his longtime sweetheart Andi, but you know the Devil… Something always gets in the way. The first season ended with the revelation that Sam is actually the Devil’s son and with that came a whole new set of problems. The best part about that whole exchange was the Devil’s response when Sam confronted him about it. It was something to the tune of “Do you have any idea how many children I’ve had over the millennia? You’re nothing special, Sammy. But one day, ONE of you will make me proud.” He’s charming in his delivery but completely evil in his actions. Sam’s come close a couple of times to breaking free, but it somehow never works out, even with he enlisted the help of renegade demons (or rather they enlisted him). In short, it’s perfect. I could go on and on, but you should really see it for yourself.
So yes, the situations are funny, but it’s the dialogue and performances that make this such a great show. Bret Harrison plays Sam, who I first saw as the whiny boyfriend in Grounded for Life many moons ago. I don’t know where he got the sudden surge in talent, but he’s great here (in Grounded? Not so much.). He’s always over his head and wants nothing more than to get his life back. Ray Wise plays the prince of darkness and how he hasn’t won an Emmy by now is anyone’s guess. The entire cast gives great performances, but Tyler Labine steals the show every week as Sock. This guy is a comedic genius. His timing is beyond great. No matter what happen with this show, we’ll no doubt see more of him. Like I said before, the writers give him most of the best lines, but all the dialogue is razor sharp. Kevin Smith directed the pilot and helped mold the show into what it is now and that’s evident nowhere more than in the dialogue. It’s easy to see why they brought him on to help get it started and he was credited as a “consultant” for the show’s first season.
So if it’s this good, why isn’t it riding the gravy train with biscuit wheels? The fact is that that everyone who watches this show loves it. From fans to critics, it’s a favorite. It’s well-written, well-acted, well-shot and just generally well-done. It just doesn’t pull in good enough ratings. It’s on theCW, which is strike one for most new shows. Strike two is the whole Devil thing. So from the beginning the deck was sort of stacked against it. They just barely got picked up for a full first season after the initial 13-episode order and again JUST skimmed by for the second season renewal. However, continually low (yet consistent) ratings means this gem likely won’t see season 3. Rumor has it Tyler Labine has taken another role for next season and the show’s creators have reportedly signed a deal with another studio. That can’t possibly be good news.
Reaper’s season finale is coming up soon and Thursday theCW’s upfronts come out. Reaper has a snowball’s chance in Ray Wise’s living room of coming back again, and that’s a damn shame because under the right network with the right promotion, this could have (and should have) been one of the greats. There’s some talk of syndication, but I for one refuse to get hopes up too high for this one, great as that would be.