Film Length: 810 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Aspect Ratio: 1.79:1
Languages: English 2.0
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Cast: Bret Harrison, Tyler Labine, Rick Gonzalez, Missy Peregrym, Ray Wise
I will be the first to admit that I can't find a reason to watch the CW channel. Whether it be due to the fact that I'm just too busy or that I find that the shows that have aired in the past to be of no interest to me, I just can't bring myself to flip that channel over. Enter "Reaper", the hilarious new TV series that has suddenly made me set my TiVo to "Season Pass".
"Reaper" introduces us to Sam Oliver (Bret Harrison), an average slacker kid waking up to the morning of his 21st birthday. He never went to college, still lives with his parents, and he toils at The Workbench for near minimum wage. This seemingly innocuous day is shattered when the Devil (Ray Wise) appears in the back of Sam's car on his way home from work. After his encounter with Lucifer, Sam's father (Andrew Airlie) explains that he and Sam's mother (Allison Hossack) sold his soul to the Devil before he was born. Now that he's 21, Sam's soul belongs to Satan and he is forced to do his bidding until he dies. For Sam, this means he is now empowered by the Devil to be Hell's bounty hunter for escaped souls.
Fortunately, Sam is not alone in his duties of soul collection. His childhood best friend Bert "Sock" Wysocki (Tyler Labine) and 'Bench co-worker Ben (Rick Gonzalez) make the decision to help Sam in his duties for the Devil, mostly because they think he's going to get killed. Working together as a team, Sam and his friends set out to return escaped souls to Hell, keep the Devil satisfied, and keep themselves alive all while trying to hide their activities from Andi (Missy Peregrym), Sam's would-be, should-be love interest.
The main story arc of the series is surprisingly good once the episodes start rolling. Sam does the Devil's bidding by hunting down renegade souls all while trying to find a way out of the six-inch-thick contract his parents signed when they turned his soul over to Lucifer. Sam also has to struggle to maintain a social life (this is a CW series after all) as well as balance his young adulthood and his employment with his newfound career as a Reaper.
That having been said, the show does have some elements of the old "freak-of-the-week" plotlines that plagued some of the earlier seasons of "Smallville". After viewing the whole first season of "Reaper" twice, I am willing to say there are three distinct reasons why the series turned out as well as it did.
1. "Sock". Hands down with no questions Sock is the funniest thing on the show. Tyler Labine's riotous portrayal of Sam's best friend is the biggest highlight the series has to offer. At once both fiercly loyal and hilariously cowardly, Sock is what elevates "Reaper" beyond the mundane supernatural dramedy that it could have been. Labine has wonderful comedic timing and I can honestly say I lost count of the number of times I ended up having to rewind my DVD to hear the next line of dialogue because I was laughing too hard to catch it the first time.
2. The Devil. Bringing Satan to any screen, big or small, has got to be one of the biggest challenges for any actor. There have been an almost uncountable amount of different characterizations for Lucifer over the years, some as insane, some as the perfect gentleman, and others as the michevious jester. Ray Wise's take on the role seems to be the perfect blend of charm and menace. One part mob boss, one part used-car salesman, "Reaper's" chief antagonist has charisma and wit with a disarming smile that gets flashed in almost every scene, but always lurking just below the surface is the scary potential of what could be.
3. The subplots. As I stated before, the main story arc for the show is pretty good, but what really takes "Reaper" to the next level is the multitude of 2-4 episode story mini-arcs. Sam's brief relationship Cady (Jessica Stroup), the daughter of a woman he protected from an escaped soul, is particularly good as the series begins to hint that she might possibly be the Devil's offspring. Also worth noting is Sam's involvement with a group of rebellious demons led by gay demon couple Steve (Michael Ian Black) and Tony (Ken Marino) who are trying to kill the devil. Sock's obsession with a succubus demon who takes a year off of his life every time she kisses him is also quite entertaining, even if it only lasts one episode.
Below are all eighteen episodes from the first season.
3. All Mine
5. What About Blob?
7. Love, Bullets and Blacktop
8. The Cop
9. Ashes to Ashes
10. Cash Out
11. Hungry for Fame
13. Acid Queen
15. Coming to Grips
16. Greg, Schmeg
17. The Leak
"Reaper" looks good and seems to upscale nicely on my system. Color saturation is good and I didn't notice any bleeding on my TV. All in all, this is a solid video picture.
Given that this is a TV show, the first season set is released with only a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. That having been said, my system had no problem decoding it into a matrix surround experience. There is no dedicated LFE channel, but the weekly adversaries do tend to get the woofers on main speakers moving a bit. Dialogue was clear and all of the action was front and center where it should be.
If I had a complaint about this DVD release, this is where it is. There are practically no special features on this set. All the viewer gets are a few deleted scenes that were definitely better left on the cutting room floor, a gag reel, and a commentary track for the pilot episode by the show's creators and writers. I will say that, while the commentary is entertaining and filled with fun facts, the box that "Reaper" comes in states "Audio Commentaries" as a bonus feature. Try as I might, I was unable to locate any commentary other than the one for the pilot episode so the advertising of multiple commentaries is a bit misleading.
There's a lot to like in the first season of "Reaper"; from the characters to the storylines, the whole show is well presented and well produced. There are lots of great tongue-in-cheek moments, for example, the dropoff point for Sam's reclaimed souls is the D.M.V. The series' creators even begin to delve into some old theology when they cover the group of renegade demons who used to be the angels that allied themselves with Lucifer during the wars of heaven. Overall, this is a great show that would be a welcome to addition to any viewer's library. "Reaper" gets my full recommendation. It's funny, creepy, sometimes scary, but always entertaining. I am eagerly awaiting the 2nd season and have my DVR armed and ready.