Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tuesday rookie round-up

Again, I pretty thoroughly covered the pilots of both "Reaper" and "Cane" in columns over the last few days, but I wanted to add a few thoughts and offer an easy space for people to comment afterwards. Spoilers coming up just as soon as I get my driver's license renewed...

Ahhh, "Reaper." So much goodness. So much rich, glazed goodness. The highlight is obviously Ray Wise as the Devil. Wise has been around forever, only occasionally getting the kind of role he deserves, and anyone who saw him as Leland Palmer on "Twin Peaks" knows that Satan is actually the second most-evil character he's ever played. Whenever I would mention that Wise was playing the Devil in this show to a Hollywood type who wanted to know what I liked this season, they would always smile and say, "Hey, that's perfect," and he lives up to billing, suave and happy and charming as, well, hell.

As I've written, I like the otherwise-identical "Chuck" a lot, but Wise gives "Reaper" the edge as my favorite new show. Beyond that, the differences between the two shows are matters of degree: Do you prefer the wild, Jack Black-esque theatrics of Tyler Labine as the sidekick here or the mumbled, Seth Green-esque neuroses of Joshua Gomez on "Chuck"? Bret Harrison getting hit in the face, repeatedly, or Zachary Levi being socially awkward? Are you a supernatural person or a spy person? Do you prefer your hottie love interests to accentuate the hotness or pretend like it's not that big a deal? Etc., etc.

Kevin Smith's never been known for his directing flair, but, like I said in the column, he did a vastly better job handing the tone shifts than he did with "Dogma," and there are a lot of lovely comic grace notes, with my favorite being Sam and Sock having to wait around for the Dirt Devil to recharge after their triumphant suiting-up montage. (I also liked the runner about their pal's eyebrows, paid off without mention at the very end.)

Really, my only concern is that I haven't seen a second episode. Can they do this every week? How crucial was Smith (who won't be around in the future) to what worked? And how can I get the number for Ray Wise's dentist?

I may give "Cane" another shot or two, both out of loyalty to Jimmy Smits and to a lack of interest in "SVU" and "Boston Legal," but man was that pilot dull. And there seems to be no good reason for Smits and Hector Elizondo to not pull Nestor Carbonell aside and say, "You know those people you're so eager to get into business with? We just found out they murdered your baby sister when she was three years old." Well, no good reason except for creating some lame brother against brother tension.

What did everybody else think?


John said...

You know what I can't stand about Cane? That they keep pluralizing Samuels as Samuels instead of Samuelses. I know people do that all the time in real life, but that doesn't make it any less annoying.

Also? The show is boring as hell.

Matt said...

I enjoyed Reaper quite a bit, but share your considerable worries about sustainability, especially since I noticed a number of "Desperate Housewives: Season 2" names on the pilot producer lists, and they clearly didn't know where to go with things. Appreciated that it was much less exposition-heavy than the "Chuck" pilot, and Wise is a better exposition-bot than Chuck had.

And the Peregrym scenes were almost painfully pasted in.

Anonymous said...

Given the deafening buzz, I wanted to enjoy Reaper a lot more than I actually did. I could see the quality and the comedy, but I felt like I wasn't getting the *fun* of it (which was a big reason why Chuck was such a delight last night.) Now that I've read your post, I might watch it again after work tomorrow to see if my reaction changes. Though I have a feeling this might turn out like Heroes, Grey's, and the upcoming Pushing Daisies (I've seen the pilot): wildly popular shows that just don't click with me.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Maybe I just fell victim to the hype on this, but Reaper didn't work for me at all. It's toothless, for one thing. When even the devil is reassuring his indentured servant that everything will work out in the end because God's in charge, the tension kind of evaporates.

Hell, we don't even get to enjoy watching this guy evolve away from being a loser. By the end of the pilot, he's already enthusiastic about the new job because he knows it elevates him from being a loser. Where else can we go with that now, unless they ignore this and make him a loser again next week. That journey should have been longer and less overtly spelled out for us.

I'm also pretty much sick to death of the big loud fat guy archetype. I get it: big loud fat guy. Give it a rest.

Everything else was remarkably pedestrian, from the flavorless villain to the hottie heroine's obvious crush on the hero to the slacker worship straight out of 1994.

I like Ray Wise, generally, but, again: toothless.

I'll give it another episode or two, but this thing's going to have to develop some meat, and some tangible stakes, pretty quickly. Life's too short to watch mediocre television. Buffy the Vampire Slayer 2.0 this ain't.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Reaper handled the tone shifts better than Chuck, Tyler Labine was funnier (although almost as overused) as Joshua Gomez, and Ray Wise was awesome. Is the guy who played Ben also in the cast or was he a guest star? After Sam lied to his mother, he seemed to be the only other person who knew about Sam's calling besides Sock.

Kevin Smith's direction was good, but lots of the well done moments like the Dirt Devil charging and the hockey rink are primarily due to the writing, right? Hopefully that's a good sign for the future.

Christy said...

Yeah, I was delighted with Wise, but bored with the show. Too long to get going; far too much focus, in a pilot, on the zany bff; I thought it was a very low energy show overall. When action slowed down it was deadly. Awful. I started flipping around at about the 30 minute mark and ended up at Boston Legal for some laughs.

Rain said...

Polly Walker's "southern" accent in "Cane" was even worse than Kyra Sedgewick's in "The Closer." Bad, bad casting.

R.A. Porter said...

Wow. Lots of Reaper backlash here. None from me. It was pretty much everything I'd been looking forward to all summer. I can't compare to Chuck yet, 'cause I had conflicts last night and won't be getting it until Saturday. Although truth be told, I didn't mind waiting til Saturday in the least because my expectations of it are sooo low. Jake 2.0 redux without Christopher Gorham.

Maybe I'll be totally wrong; maybe Chuck will knock my socks off and improve episode to episode and Reaper will rapidly decay. But right now, I'm still in the glow of Harrison and Wise.

Anonymous said...

But right now, I'm still in the glow of Harrison and Wise.

Same here. I thoroughly enjoyed "Reaper" (and still have yet to see "Chuck"), and if "Chuck" is half as good, it looks like I'll be picking up at least two new shows this season. Ray Wise rocks!

afoglia said...

I'm the opposite of Alanna. I saw "Chuck" this afternoon, and while it had moments, I didn't quite get into it. (I couldn't keep track of whether Baldwin and the blonde were NSA and CIA or CIA and NSA respectively; if anyone can read data off a busted HD, it's the NSA; and I have little faith in the last-minute revelation about the blonde.)

"Reaper", on the other hand, was a lot more fun. The broader humor helped. The parents are interesting. Now that they think the debt has been repaid, will they start getting stricter with Sam?

Anonymous said...

After just one episode each, I prefer Chuck to Reaper. I thought Chuck had more style and was a flawlessly executed pilot.

Reaper's pilot felt pieced together (as I guess it was since Missy Peregryms's scenes were pasted in). I didn't buy the "serious" moments. And also some of the best jokes (the dirt duster and DMV) were leaked months ago.

Maybe Chuck just got the advantage with me because I saw it first. But you're right -- they are basically the same exact show.

And unfortunately, it makes neither show seem fresh or original. I just can't see myself watching both shows. There's only so much "slacker guy working in big retail chain store with wise-cracking sidekick" that I can take.

Then again, there's nothing else to watch on Tuesday nights, so Reaper may hold my interest for a bit longer.

memphish said...

I watched both Reaper and Chuck yesterday and liked them both. I thought they both were better than the Heroes premier.

Reaper had several LOL moments, but its pacing was a bit uneven, and I was able to work hard Sudoku while watching and not miss anything on screen or in puzzle. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I OD on extreme attention to detail with LOST.

I'll give both Chuck and Reaper another go next week.

As for Cane -- it must fail now so that Dr. Eyeliner can get back to the Island.

Tom said...

I much prefer "Reaper" to "Chuck."

For starts, Chuck is a nerd. Not just a nerd, but a Nerd(tm). Skinny tie, pocket protector, etc. Sorry, but the stereotype is so played out. The Reaper, on the other hand, is just a guy who works at Home Depot, and not a caricature from the comedy writers' toolbox. His Everyman quality is appealing, and seeing him thrust into the supernatural is much more interesting and satisfying than seeing the Nerd(tm) cliche caught up in Spy Movie(tm) cliche.

I also find the Faustian premise much more interesting than the, well, college-roomate-is-a-spy-who-downloads-the-accumulated-intelligence-of-the-USA-spy-community-into-your-brain premise. The one is classic and touches on questions of morality and mortality. The other is just a bit contrived and shallow.

Finally, I think Reaper is much better positioned to crank out the episodes. It's gonna be "Supernatural" with laffs. (And yes I am a "Supernatural" fan.) What will we get with "Chuck"? Zany terrorist plots?

Anonymous said...

RE: Chuck and Reaper: Why do we have to pick one or the other but not both? I've seen both and I really don't think they are all that alike. I mean any more so than they are alike to other TV shows where there's an unrequited love, an underdog, a wacky sidekick, etc. At least it's not another cop show or medical drama.

And can we PLEASE stop comparing Tyler Labine to Jack Black? Labine steals almost every scene he's in. He's smart, loyal and funny as a sidekick should be. So big deal, he's chubby. So is Kevin Smith. Is Kevin Smith Jack Black-esque also? Move on people.

Anonymous said...

Still haven't seen Chuck, but I enjoyed Reaper quite a bit. I hope that it can keep up the momentum.

K J Gillenwater said...

Loved "Reaper." Will be setting that up for the old Season Pass. "Chuck" has been deleted without me even watching the rest. It was that bad.

"Reaper" had the right amount of goofy for me.

Oh, and as I didn't watch it until yesterday, I also really liked "Journeyman." Kept my attention all the way through, makes me wonder what is going on and why, I liked the main character a whole heck of a lot. Good news for a pilot.

KaveDweller said...

Cane bored me to tears. seriously, I am not even giving that one a second chance. I want it canceled so Richard can go back to Lost.

I made the mistake of watching a recorded Chuck right before Reaper. So I am really comparing them. I think I liked Reaper better, the main character is more interesting and it was funnier. I also liked the supporting cast better in Reaper. But Chuck had good moments too. I'll probably end up watching both, unless my Monday's get too crowded and I have to give up Chuck

Alan Sepinwall said...

And can we PLEASE stop comparing Tyler Labine to Jack Black? Labine steals almost every scene he's in. He's smart, loyal and funny as a sidekick should be. So big deal, he's chubby. So is Kevin Smith. Is Kevin Smith Jack Black-esque also? Move on people.

It's not (just) about the chubby. It's about the manic, agressive energy he brings to the part. I can very easily imagine Black running through the aisles with the leaf blower screaming, "Run, bitches!" in the exact way Labine did it.

And I like Labine in this show quite a bit. But the resemblance to Black (intentional or not) goes well beyond the physical.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I like Ray Wise, generally, but, again: toothless.

First of all, that man's mouth is anything but toothless. :)

But seriously, folks, I can see where you're coming from on some of the other complaints (even though I don't agree with them), but I don't think the Devil is toothless at all. He's a charmer. Evil is supposed to be seductive, otherwise everybody would just be good all the time, right? So he tells Sam what he wants to hear, and on those occasions where Sam gets insubordinate, then we see the Devil's real face, as demonstrated in the bit where he threatened to take Sam's mom away if Sam refused to work for him.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the "liked them both, but Reaper has an edge" camp. Reaper made me laugh out loud several times, while Chuck made me smile (and for me, a little Joshua Gomez went a very long way, but I loved Labine). Plan to keep watching both of them for now.

I do wish that the Dust Devil (the reveal of which is such a fun, perfect moment) hadn't been spoiled for me -- and it hadn't been until I read a couple of reviews. Alan, LOVE your writing, but I wish you had kept that detail to yourself until after the pilot aired (though the Times critic used it too, so I still would have been spoiled).

And while I know I'm probably one of maybe 10 people on the planet who watched Dark Angel (one of the others is my husband), I've gotta say "Original Cindy! Woo hoo!" (For all of you who did not watch DA, Valerie Rae Miller, who plays Sock's ex-girlfriend, was Jessica Alba's best buddy on the show.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Is the guy who played Ben also in the cast or was he a guest star?

Rick Gonzales is a regular castmember, which is good for "Reaper" and bad for the producers of underdog sports movies, as he's been in a bunch of them.

Alan Sepinwall said...

As for Cane -- it must fail now so that Dr. Eyeliner can get back to the Island.

Just got a peek at the preliminary metered market ratings, and Cane beat both Boston Legal and, stunningly, SVU in households. We'll see how things look when the total viewers and, most importantly, demographic numbers come in, but I wouldn't be booking Richard's ticket back to Craphole Island just yet.

KaveDweller said...

Cane is going to be one of those shows that inexplicably does well, like The Unit, isn't it? Meanwwhile, Pushing Daisies (which seems to have promise) gets canceled after two weeks.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I wouldn't call the success of either show inexplicable. The Unit can actually be quite good a lot of the time (when the wives aren't around, anyway), and it has a lot of meat-and-potatoes appeal to middle-aged guys who like action shows without any hand-wringing.

And Cane has a very popular star in Smits, and the notion of a Cubano Godfather isn't nearly the tough sell that Pushing Daisies is going to be.

Whether that audience comes back next week after the exceedingly dull pilot, we'll see. I still want to get a look at the half-hour by half-hour breakdown to see how well the show held up at the midway point.

memphish said...

Dang Alan, that ratings news spoils my morning. It bolsters my theory that people who watch CBS fall asleep and leave the tube on or can't work their remotes. I'm pretty sure my in-laws fall in that category.

Edward Copeland said...

Admittedly, I've been waiting nearly two decades to see Ray Wise get another role close to the level of Leland Palmer, so I enjoyed the hell out of the first Reaper. I like the idea that this isn't really an absolutely malevolent devil, but one who acts more like a motivational speaker and acknowledges that earth is better with some of these folks below with him and that God wins in the end. I'm definitely coming back.

Unknown said...

I, too, watched Cane to be loyal to Jimmy Smits but it's gonna be a tough road. It really is the Godfather in Miami. The colors, the shot of the terraced lawn and pool...the whole thing is Sicily all over again. And sad to say, Hector Elizondo is no Brando.

But I'll give it a few more eps because I do love Jimmy Smits and I want to see more Rita Moreno. The young'uns, I couldn't care less. Does that make me an old fogey?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Some Cane ratings follow-up: when the fast nationals came in, it finished a close second to SVU in total viewers and a distant second to SVU in 18-49. Still a good start, though, with only minor half-hour fall-off.

Matt said...

Cane and Big Bang were CBS's golden children this season, so I'm not shocked (though I am dismayed, in the case of Big Bang) that they've opened well. (NBC's golden children are Chuck/Bionic, ABC's are Dirty Sexy Money/Pushing Daisies/Private Practice, FOX's are Back to You/K-Ville, and CW's are Gossip Girl/Reaper.)

I'm wondering if the 90 minute Boston Legal might have backfired on them, which people switching over after House or The Unit getting frustrated by having to pick up the episode some distance in and just flipping over to something else.

And what did Reaper's numbers look like?

Alan Sepinwall said...

And what did Reaper's numbers look like?

A distant fifth in the timeslot, but complete retention of the Beauty and the Geek audience (and actually went up slightly in total viewers).

Anonymous said...

I really liked Reaper, probably a bit more than I liked Chuck. I'll be watching both of them next week. I *loved* Ray Wise, and agree with Alan that he's far from toothless. I was reminded of the Albert Brooks bit from Broadcast News, where he talks about how the devil would be good-looking and charming. Best line delivery by Wise? "I'm not a carjacker, I'm the devil!"

Anonymous said...

Why was Nikki Reed fired from this show? She's someone I could see as a Home Depot employee -- as opposed to Missy Peregrym, who, I'm sorry, is just too hot. I realize all women on TV have to be good-looking, but the idea that Peregrym would be working at a hardware store, with no boyfriend, just waiting around for Bret Harrison to ask her out, doesn't make a lot of sense.

Unless she's also a minion of the devil? Probably not. More likely, she'll just become a member of the Scooby gang. Although I wouldn't be surprised if her late father turns out to be a hell escapee at some point.

A.H. said...

I've had a soft spot for Tyler Labine since "Dead Last" so I was looking forward to "Reaper." However, my TiVo was confused and recorded some idiot dating show instead. Not sure what happened there.

Anonymous said...

My loyalty to Boston Legal caused me too flip halfway through, but I liked it. For something directed by Smith, it was astonishingly assured, proof that maybe he should stop hating the internet for a second and look at scripts that are not his own for his next movie.

Oh, who am I kidding? Hating the Internet is all Kevin Smith has!


I sometimes wonder if Tyler Labine every gets sick of the constant Jack Black clone roles that are thrown at him, but hey, he played a lawyer a couple times on BL, and was decent enough as a dramatic slacker on Invasion. Here he's back to the usual spastic Jack Black discount act, but at least the writers know how to write to make it funny.

Valerie Rae Miller? Haven't seen her in a while. I assume she'll do what she did on DA: invest a painfully underwritten role with real depth.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I must've missed something because there is no comparison - REAPER was godawful. It was sloppy, badly paced, the story of the demon lacked anything interesting to it, the characters were flat the romance DOA. The whole thing was lame. Maybe there's too much Kevin Smith worship, or too much hype.

Chuck was so much better in so many ways. It had more scope, more ambition, more heart, more humor and a much better leading man and romance. I don't know what everyone else was watching but for me it was no contest. REAPER is deleted off the season pass while CHUCK is the first new show I've liked.

Just my 2cents

Anonymous said...

Kevin Smith = unwatchable.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Missed this one earlier.

For starts, Chuck is a nerd. Not just a nerd, but a Nerd(tm). Skinny tie, pocket protector, etc. Sorry, but the stereotype is so played out.

Chuck himself isn't that stereotypically nerdy; that's the uniform he has to wear as part of Buy More's Nerd Herd tech support team. I believe the real-life Geek Squad at Best Buy has to wear something similar.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Why was Nikki Reed fired from this show? She's someone I could see as a Home Depot employee -- as opposed to Missy Peregrym, who, I'm sorry, is just too hot.

I believe you just answered your own question.

I had no problems with Reed in the original pilot, but TV execs think viewers want to watch pretty people, and based on some of the comments from people who want to watch "Big Shots" just because Dylan McDermott and Michael Vartan are hunky, I don't know that that thinking is always wrong.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to watch Big Shots because I'm one of those diseased fellows that thought Titus was an awesome show. But after your review, I shall stay away. FAR AWAY.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and one more thing: I can't fault Nestor Carbonell for taking Cane, because he's got an actual character to play.

Anonymous said...

Wow, they really did cut-and-paste Peregrym in there, didn't they?

Anonymous said...

I loved "Titus" but I'm steering clear of "Big Shots," despite all the hotness on it. It sounds dreadful.

So he tells Sam what he wants to hear, and on those occasions where Sam gets insubordinate, then we see the Devil's real face, as demonstrated in the bit where he threatened to take Sam's mom away if Sam refused to work for him.

Or when he had the zamboni run over that guy.

Anonymous said...

If you want to know why Nikki Reed was fired from the show, think about the last time you saw a Nikki Reed movie in theaters. I know people who've worked with her and the girl can't act to save her life.

I think Missy was great on "Life As We Know It" and she's also far more age appropriate for this show given that she's the same age as Harrison in real life, whereas Reed is six years younger.

All that being said. Count me in the "Reaper" is the best pilot of the season camp.

I found "Chuck" to be toothless and bland and having given up on "Gossip Girl" not even halfway through the pilot, I can tell you that without Adam Brody, Josh Schwartz is nothing.

Also. Credit to Kevin Smith for finally evolving as a director. Using a crane and dolly as opposed to just static shots like he does in all of his films. He did a hell of a job with this pilot and I can't wait to see where the show goes even without him.

Anonymous said...

FYI. According to reports at Comic-Con, at the Kevin Smith panel, he basically just said Reed was re-cast because she was a terrible actress and later tried to spin it into just wasn't a good fit, but the damage had been done.

Anonymous said...

"I had no problems with Reed in the original pilot, but TV execs think viewers want to watch pretty people,"

They're right; I do want to watch pretty people. The only problem with this is that the TV execs have very narrow and unimaginative notions of pretty.

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