Spoilers for "Reaper" coming up just as soon as I reshelve my "X-Files" DVDs...
A guy I know who works in a network's scheduling department has this theory -- backed by some persuasive examples -- that a show can start with soft ratings and build, but if a show is doing well and starts to lose viewers, they won't come back. The more I think about last night's "Reaper," the more I wonder if the same concept can't also be applied to the creative side of things. If I think a show starts out weakly but gets better over time (like, say, "Life," which has a really strong episode tonight), I'm apt to be kinder towards it than a show that I liked until it dipped, even if the show tries to get better moving forward.
The latest "Reaper" did a number of things I've been asking/hoping for, including more of Gladys the DMV Demon (though I think her fun sexy time with Sock would have been a lot funnier if it hadn't been a dream), some breaks from the formula (Sam goes soul-hunting on his own, the soul plays second fiddle to the cop) and the Devil seeming genuinely dangerous. But to quote the most insightful, articulate cultural critic of our day, I wasn't feeling it, dawg.
Part of the problem was that other flaws remained in place, like the relationship hamster wheel that Sam and Andi have been stuck on for no particular reason, or the soul again having no personality (though the tattoo gimmick -- lifted from an old Green Lantern villain -- was one of the more visually interesting powers to date).
Mostly, though, I feel like "Reaper" caught lightning in a bottle with that pilot and has been struggling to trap some more ever since. Some episodes are good, some are bad ("Charged"), and some are mediocre but have Curtis Armstrong. Ray Wise alone is probably enough to keep me going for the rest of the season, but barring a string of four or five consecutive episodes of "Leon" quality, I think the magic's gone for good.
What did everybody else think?