Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"That was nice. I can be nice!": Reaper

I watched a screener of Reaper a while ago, when Nikki Reed was the female lead, and I really liked it. Over time, though, it had diminished in my mind, half cause I kept comparing it to Chuck (which I really like too--damn you, similar settings!) and I sort of forgot how, well, good this is. The premise is one thing (it's cute, but a little thin on the ground), but the characters are a lot sharper than I remember, and there are some really great little throwaway moments. Like when Sam asks Ben (Rick Gonzalez, who's an excellent actor, but I never knew he could do deadpan so well!) to punch him in the face, and Ben just pats him on the back? That was terrific.

Anyway, when I say the premise is a little thin on the ground, I mean how Satan keeps reassuring Sam that he's doing an essentially good job and that God wins in the end. The specifics of hell's overcrowding don't really need to be explained (it's a pretty easy joke to get), but I hope there is a little more exposition, or at least a few more throwaway jokes, about the celestial stuff in weeks to come. Other writers have mentioned how Satan's assurances seem to be letting Sam off too easily, but I figure he's the Prince of Darkness, right? He could easily just be lying--about the nature of some of the guys Sam tracks down, or God's supposed eventual triumph. I wouldn't put it past Lucifer, that's for sure. Forgetting all that, though, the casting of Ray Wise is just utter genius. The second I heard about it I knew it would be great, and he's just as good as I thought he would be. There's something so essentially charming but also completely demented about him. My favorite Ray Wise performances are when he's at his most insane, like Leland from Twin Peaks, Leon Nash in Robocop, Frank in Dead End (a bizarre little movie nobody's seen). That's why I was so disappointed that his appearances in 24 was such a dud, and why I'm so thrilled he's gonna get to play SATAN week-to-week. Hell (pun unintended), if anything, Wise wasn't in the pilot enough! Using him sparingly is a good idea, but I kept waiting for him to show up again.

Not that the rest of the episode was at all boring. It zips along better than any other pilot this season, and the balance between jokes, action and drama is excellent. It's almost amazing how accomplished a director Kevin Smith proved here, considering I've never really seen him rated as a director before. I would complain that the drama was maybe a little sparingly used--made the ep a lot more fun, but scenes like where Ben is in the hospital or, more importantly, where Sam told his mother that Satan had released him from the debt, should have been lingered on just a smidge longer. Still, those scenes were good, so I don't think the show will have any problem with darker moments in the future. I'd like some darker moments, though, because this is a show about Satan and Sam is essentially doomed to be tortured in hell for all eternity (although I'm sure they'll figure some way out of that by the series finale).

Bret Harrison (I never saw The Loop, but I'm told it's good) is a good heart-of-gold nerd lead, but this show is clearly gonna live and die by its supporting cast, so it's good they have such great talent. Tyler Labine (I still miss Invasion) as Sock had inflated to exaggerated proportions in my mind, but he's actually quite nuanced and great for anyone to bounce dialogue off of. He's probably already booking a ton of lame Hollywood comedies that he can be the funny best-friend character in. There are other potential breakout characters here, though. I really liked Sock's interplay with his ex-girlfriend, especially whenever he shouted slanderously about her in public places. Is she in the credited cast? She was funny! Also, Gonzalez as Ben, who I mentioned before, had some nicely dry humor and could round out the workplace cast well, I think. As for Missy Peregrym--I was worried because early word said she was bad, and I had enjoyed Nikki Reed in the original pilot, but Peregrym was actually a marked improvement, I thought. She's more appealing, but she's still not intimidatingly pretty, so you can see her with Sam. I think the problems critics had was that her re-shot scenes were sort of jarringly inserted with the original material, but obviously that's not a problem after the pilot, so I'm looking forward to seeing more of her.

The episode's plot itself I won't say too much about, but monster-of-the-week is a nice formula to fall back on...for a while. Like I said, they're gonna need to explore the universe as we get further into the season, but for now, this looks like some of the best fun you can be having on TV right now. Who's with me?

1 comment:

Kenny said...

Of late, I've turned on Kevin Smith's movies with a vengeance, but his excursion into TV seems to be the best career move he's made in years. Directing someone else's work seems to have freed him of his own self-sabotaging indulgences and allowed him the opportunity to actually grow as a director.

I saw a preview clip online with Missy Peregrym, then a screener with Nikki Reed, and for about a day I was dismayed, thinking that Reed had replaced Peregrym.