Friday, March 28, 2008

Reaper: Boys and girls... ACTION! ACTION!

Spoilers for last night's "Reaper" coming up just as soon as I grease up a chair...

First, I know the photo above wasn't in last night's episode, but A)the CW press site didn't have any pictures for this show, and B)Michael Ian Black trying to sand off his demon horns is a funny image.

If you've been reading me for a while, you know there's always a risk, whenever more than one alum of The State appears in something, of me going off on a long tangent about my love of the group. To save time, I'll just link to a handful of State sketches (featuring Black and/or Ken Marino) that have yet to be pulled off of YouTube or MySpace TV: "Pants", "The Barry Lutz Show", "Porcupine Racetrack" and "Father-Son Race" and express my frustration that MTV has once again delayed the release of the DVDs (which is the whole reason all the other sketches have been scrubbed off of YouTube).

Beyond any college age nostalgia for the likes of Louie or Barry and Levon, I was glad to see Black and Marino show up last week because "Reaper" has been badly in need of a comedy injection for a while. To keep alive the "Chuck" comparison a little longer, "Chuck" was able to get by a lot of weeks with iffy plots and guest villains simply because it was funny. "Reaper" has tried to be funny, but most of the time the jokes felt exactly like that -- someone trying to be funny, and not succeeding.

Sam and the guys' interaction with their new gay/demon neighbors carried last week's otherwise forgettable invisible soul storyline. So those scenes were added to an episode like last night where things actually happened, you got a show that sort of resembled the one we all liked so much way back when the pilot aired.

Part of the problem with "Reaper," other than the low laugh quotient, is that Sam is such a passive, sad sack character. The idea that Sam is somehow special to the Devil, and that there are other Hellspawn who might want to take advantage of that link to get back at Ol' Scratch, gives both the character and the show some actual direction. We know Sam's not going to get out of his contract before the finale, but this other story idea could be promising. (Plus, it suggests that Black and Marino will be around for a while.) And the writers needed to get off the pot already with Sam and Andi; the Peter Parker, "Anyone I get close to will be in danger" approach isn't the most original, but at least it should (I hope) put a moratorium on all those lemon-sucking scenes where Sam pines after her.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

Hmn... I didn't think the gay demons were trying to get back at Old Scratch; I thought they were trying to kiss up to the boss. I was the boss's daughter growing up, and I recognized the demon's reaction immediately as the same one I got from people when I told them my last name at the office.

And speaking of the boss's child... this episode put a little juice behind my pet theory, that Sam is actually the devil's son. After all, you can't sell somebody else's soul to the devil (the pilot commented on that a few times). I'm thinking the arrangement between the devil and Sam's parents was more Indecent Proposal, and Sam was the result. I always thought that the devil had a very tough-love-fatherly way with Sam, but the theory started to percolate in my mind when Sam's father burned a page of the Contract. And that theory would certainly explain why the devil pays more attention to Sam than most.

The CineManiac said...

I loved Marino and Black the last two weeks. I"m hoping they stick around for a while. (Sadly I never watched The State and know Black mainly from VH1 and Marino from Veronica Mars, but if the DVD ever streets I'll pick it up.)

Tracey - I like that theory I'd never thought of Sam being the Devil's son. If so I really hope Cady isn't his daughter, but leave it to the Devil to get some good old fashioned incest going.

I feel like the last 2 weeks have been better than normal, and feel they've finally layed the tired formula they were using at the wayside.

Here's hoping the show gets picked up for next season so we can see where it goes.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Hmn... I didn't think the gay demons were trying to get back at Old Scratch; I thought they were trying to kiss up to the boss. I was the boss's daughter growing up, and I recognized the demon's reaction immediately as the same one I got from people when I told them my last name at the office.

Possibly, but the need to talk to Sam in a Devil-proofed room suggests something beyond brown-nosing.

AndyW said...

Yeah, I'd really have to call this the best episode since the pilot. Adding Black and Marino really livened things up and added a mystery to the show that was actually interesting. I have to think it's too late to save the show, but it should make the final five episodes worth watching.

Shawn Anderson said...

Says Tony (Black): "All of us have our reasons to fight the devil. Tony and I have ours, and you have yours"

I'm a huge fan of The State as well. MTV's Human Giant, while still funny, only reminds me how much I miss it.

The endings of the past two episodes are the first time that the creators have really shown their Buffy pedigree in awhile.

I was having a hard time mustering any sympathy for the shows' fate until Tony invited Sam into his secret room. Now all of a sudden I'm willing to start a campaign of sending Lil' Devil Dustbusters to CW headquarters to save the show.

Don't know if it's because it's really good now, or I was just so starving for some over-arching storyline for so long that 'these crackers taste like filet mignon.'

Unknown said...

Will Reaper be returning next year. This March 13 Hollywood Reporter article said it "needs divine intervention to come back strong enough to make the network add it to its list of previously announced pickups."

Was that article wrong, or has there been some updated news?

Shawn Anderson said...

There was also some nice true-to-life casting with Tyler Labine's brother playing the Seattle Style magazine lackey that Sock says "I think I found a brother."

Pirate Alice said...

I really like this show, and last night's episode did make me laugh out loud. I was wondering myself if perhaps the Sam was the devil's son. But it was more of a passing thought than anything serious.

I hope it doesn't get cancelled, but since I enjoy the show, it probably will.

Mrglass said...

Tracey - I like that theory I'd never thought of Sam being the Devil's son. If so I really hope Cady isn't his daughter, but leave it to the Devil to get some good old fashioned incest going.

That would never happen in a network show; maybe Cady is the Devil's daughter, but the Hero can't be the Antichrist.

In my opinion, the biggest problem with Reaper is the demon-of-the-week. The action scenes are never interesting and the definition of repetitive. There is no tension, all he has to do is using the device correctly (even though he manages to fail this simple task, every week, during their first encounter).

What Reaper does well is showing the life of three stoners in a realistic way. But maybe even that is a bad thing, since there shouldn't be anything normal about Sam's life.

legion said...

I've been mostly content to watch Reaper for it's funny bits, and only the Sam/Andi recycled plot elements make me cringe. But last night made me wonder if the writers had just been biding their time before ramping up the serialization, and whether this was a tease or a sign of the face of the shape of things to come [can't resist a BSG quote this close to April 4!]

I too was excited by the possibility of Michael Ian Black being more than stunt casting. An expanded cast could certainly help, but so could Sam just plain growing a set. I've always liked Reaper over Chuck, but I admit that Chuck shows more signs of longevity, while Reaper seemed destined to burn itself out by not growing into the better show we all knew it could be. Oh, so tantalizing, I hope for more of this. And I hope that Andi doesn't just let what she saw go. The moment they pulled her out of the car wreck, I told my wife "if she has amnesia, I'm going to barf". They didn't go for the cliche that explicitly, so here's hoping it isn't forgotten about subsequently. (does anyone remember the early episode where they introduced the stupid idea that "sock laughs when he gets nervous"? This is a show that forgets about things, although in that case I am soooo glad they did).

There often comes a time in shows where I find the show hits it's new level, where it clicks for you. In Lost it was ep4, the Locke-was-in-a-wheelchair. For Dexter it was about 1/2 through season 1 where it just clicked that there was more than just a vigalente kill per week, and that Dexter was *amazing* (and it's thanks to your recommendation, Alan, that I'm now permanently hooked on that show). I was hoping so so so much that this episode was that moment for Reaper.

Oh, and demonphobic? *great*

Well... nothing to do now but wait for the next episode..

Alan Sepinwall said...

One more State sketch with Marino (albeit another one like Father-Son Race where he doesn't show up until the very end but is hilarious doing so): "Chicken sandwich, Carl!"

Unknown said...

How many more episodes of this show are left before it gets canceled?

Anyway, I also like the friendly neighborhood demons next door, and am very excited about that new plot development. On the other hand, I'm bloody sick of the Peter Parker excuse as to not date someone. Sometimes the whole "we can't have characters get together because of Moonlighting" thing just gets incredibly old, and on this show it's gotten old really fast.

Andi better follow up on this. I think she will....

Matt said...

Two points:

1. Given the background of creators Fazekas and Butters (who cut their teeth on SVU), I thought the crack about "All uncles are creepy, don't you watch SVU?" was pretty inspired.

2. The other big difference between this and Chuck is that Chuck actually made us care about connections between the characters, particularly with Captain Awesome, both in his "tucker" subplot with Morgan early on and in the material with wanting to marry Ellie. (Also, there hasn't been a post-pilot moment on Reaper nearly as good as Ellie's "If everything is awesome..." speech.)

Matt said...

Another bizarre moment--given that the show is set in Seattle and filmed in Vancouver, why on earth did they use stock footage (several year old stock footage at that) of the Tower Records at 4th and Broadway in NYC as the "party location" to lead us into the last act?

Anonymous said...

I too thought this was the best ep in a long time, and got the strong impression that Sam could be the devil's son, though why would the devil would put up with/encourage the possible incest with the annoyingly spelled Cady?

I think the strongest eps have been the ones that had some backstory, like the father burning the pages, and I think there has been an evolution of both the devil and Sam's relation, though there has yet to be an evolution of Sam. I love Marino and Black, and the offense at the demonphobia was great. I wish the show would find a way to put the backstory up front, and the demon of the week in the back--House works best this way, too.

Anonymous said...

Reaper's biggest problem has always been it's seemingly suicidal insistence on having utterly forgettable villains. It makes no sense that the entire show is premised on a guy chasing down escaped demons, and the demons in question are less cleverly drawn (and given less personality) than the props used to capture them.

The best moments of the season have been the ones which introduced a palpable sense of mystery, including the scene when Sam's dad burned the contract and the revelation of the demon's "cone of silence" room.

More mystery, please!