Reaper |


ReaperLike NBC's new show Chuck, the comedy in ReaperReaper09/25/2007Like NBC's new show Chuck, the comedy in Reaper2007-09-21

(Michael Courtney)



Starring: Bret Harrison; Director: Kevin Smith; Series Premiere: 09/25/2007; Status: In Season

Like NBC’s new show Chuck, the comedy in Reaper revolves around an underperforming twentysomething who works in a warehouse of a store, this one a version of Home Depot. (While Chuck has a charmingly novel premise, Reaper is the more purely funny of the two shows.) In the pilot episode, directed by slack-auteur Kevin Smith, our semi-hero Sam (The Loop’s Bret Harrison) has an unusual 21st birthday: He’s trailed by Omen-like dogs, moves a falling crate with his mind…and gets carjacked by Satan (24’s Ray Wise). Turns out his parents sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the Big Evil Guy saving his dad’s life, so from now on, Sam must track down hell’s fugitives and return them to the flames, with the aid of home improvement gadgets like a mini-vac. Harrison is perfectly endearing in this lovable loser role — playing a guy who, until now, had no plans past living with his parents and showing up for a job that let him goof off a lot. In the manic Jack Black sidekick role is Invasion’s Tyler Labine, who defies that archetype by actually being someone you’d want to hang out with. (”Tapehand!” he triumphantly screams, after spending one scene in the background, winding duct tape around and around his hand for no reason except both it and his hand are there.)

Still, Reaper hinges on Wise. With his shock of salt-and-pepper hair and his handsome-bad-man face, Wise has taken on many villainous roles over the years, but he’s a standout comic here, playing the devil as a rascal on holiday, perpetually pleased with his awesomeness. He cooks chicken-fried steak in Sam’s kitchen, gleefully noting how lucky he is not to have arteries, and when he explains Sam’s duties, he compares them to that of a bounty hunter — ”That’s cool, right?” he coaxes, like a parent talking a kid into the deep end. With a perpetual grin and a casually patronizing air, Wise steals this show, and his costars aren’t easy prey. What’s more, the dynamic is quite clever: Here, the devil is the loving but tough parent who won’t accept failure — who encourages Sam to stick with things, even if they’re hard (and even if they involve dangerous tasks like luring fire-blazing demons back to the underworld). Compared with Sam’s overindulgent, coddling parents — who let him drop out of college because it ”made him sleepy” — it’s Satan who’s got the right idea. You gotta give the devil his due. A-