Judging by the comments left on The T.V. Club blog, even people who like Reaper agree that (1) it’s not very well thought out and (2) it plays better if you turn your brain on low. I happen to agree with those sentiments, which might be why Reaper is such a difficult show to write about. At 7 p.m. every Tuesday, my chin drops from the rest of my head a few inches, and then it’s suddenly 8 p.m. and I’m covered in drool. I always feel like I enjoyed what I just watched, but good luck trying to analyze it.
At first I thought Reaper wanted to be Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Now I know it really aspires to be a low-rent, supernatural version of Entourage. Sam is Vincent Chase, the likeable but somewhat vacant ringleader; Sock is Turtle, the slobby know-it-all; Ben is Eric, the sensible and sensitive friend; The Devil is Ari, the most dynamic character and the most outwardly evil.
I fucking hate Entourage, but this comparison helps me understand Reaper a lot better. While the trend in fantasy shows has been about showing how fanciful elements might translate in “real” life, Reaper (like Entourage) is about placing regular dudes in exotic situations (fighting demons, banging ho-bags) and making sure you never care that much.
In other words, Reaper is another example of lifestyle porn; Entourage is geared toward Maxim readers, and Reaper is aimed squarely at the comic book crowd. It makes me think that Reaper might be a better show if it were a half-hour sitcom rather than an hour-long comedy/fantasy with the occasional dash of half-assed drama.
“The Sweet Science” felt a lot like an overstuffed but still mostly enjoyable sitcom tonight, and not only because there were so many Les Nessman references. (A more explicit shout-out to WKRP In Cincinnati would have been nice for the kids who have never rolled with Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap.) The episode was directed by Tom Cherones, an old pro who oversaw 56 episodes of NewsRadio and 81 episodes of Seinfeld, including “The Contest.” It’s no coincidence that the jokes felt a little sharper tonight, and were nicely underplayed. I loved how Nina was nonchalantly wiping blood off her hands when Ben stopped in. (She stopped for takeout, she explained.) I also liked the bit about Ray Wise tempting alcoholics and sex addicts. (Sexaholic meetings get a little messy, apparently.) The bit with Andi, Sock, and Les might have been a little too sitcom-ish—is this the first Reaper subplot dealing with Work Bench office politics?—but I thought it wrapped up fine. I also liked the demon o’ the week, but I’m a sucker for boxing movie pathos. (I still cry when Burgess Meredith dies in Rocky III.)
“The Sweet Science” was by far the least consequential episode of the young season; none of the story arcs were addressed tonight, not even Sock’s hot, perpetually wrestling stepsister. While I think Reaper works better if you approach it as a sitcom, I’m not sure if this will ultimately help the show gain a following. (Going up against American Idol doesn’t help, either.) But I still liked “The Sweet Science” on its own terms. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to dry off my drool-soaked shirt.