Reaper, the series about a young man who discovers that his parents sold his soul to the Devil, debuted in 2007 to critical acclaim but -- like all CW shows -- limited ratings. Happily, the lil'est broadcast network decided that the show was simply too good to kill and chose to bring it back for another try.
As Season 2.0 begins, Sam (Bret Harrison) and his buddies Sock (Tyler Labine) and Ben (Rick Gonzalez) have returned home after a month away. Sam finds himself living a country song: He's lost his girl, his home and his job.
But his work as a bounty hunter for his father, the Devil (Ray Wise), continues. His first assignment: vanquish 20 fierce biker types and return them to hell, from which they've escaped.
Now ordinarily, if I read a sentence like the one above, it would cause me to run screaming from the paper -- and the TV. Sci-fi/fantasy is my least favorite genre; I'd almost rather watch more cops, lawyers and doctors than yet another show about a character with supernatural powers who's trying to fend off evil.
So why am I advocating for a show about a 20-something who uses tools provided by the Devil to capture wayward souls and return them to hell?
Boy, you sure ask perceptive questions!
Two reasons. First, Reaper doesn't take itself seriously. For a show about the devil and hell, it has more laugh-out-loud lines than many sitcoms and enough pop-culture references to generate a few additional smiles. In the March 3 and 17 episodes -- the ones that were sent for review -- note the nods to The Karate Kid and WKRP in Cincinnati.
Second, the cast is sensational: Ray Wise as the Devil and Tyler Labine as Sock, in particular. Wise, the veteran character actor who played Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks, infuses his Devil with wit and menace. It'd be hard to think of a less likable character, but Wise manages to make the devil someone you wouldn't mind selling your soul to.
Labine is the perfect dimwitted slacker who thinks only with his belly and his little head. In the season premiere, he comes home to find himself with a smoking hot new stepsister. When Ben admires her, Sock's angry response is: "That is my sister. I got dibs." Labine is good enough to make that line worthy of a laugh rather than a collective "ewww."
Add in some reasonably cool special effects and you have an hour of television that's worth your time. And, as a bonus, Reaper is on Tuesday nights, the biggest weeknight wasteland in prime time. So not only is it pure entertainment; it's pure entertainment on a night when there's nothing much else to watch.