I was glad to see Reaper finally return for a second season last night, and I enjoyed the episode, though it didn’t indicate that the show has made any big strides forward since its first season. The knock on Reaper, right from the second episode, was that it didn’t grow very much, instead going over the same territory that had been covered in the excellent pilot. It got better as the first season went along, but the premise and characters mostly were what they were originally; despite the mostly cosmetic attempts at adding a little mythology or continuity, you knew that the show had a very rigid formula that required it to keep going back to square one, story-wise but also in terms of character relationships and reactions. Devil gives Sam a job that seems impossible, Sam says he can’t do it, Sam and his friends ineptly manage to do it anyway. Sam isn’t going to get that much more confident about his ability to win, no matter how often he wins.
This doesn’t bother me a lot, because Reaper is a light-hearted show that I tune into expecting to get more or less the same thing as last time; it’s not a great show, but TV needs comfort-food shows too, and this has been an amusing, likable show with funny lines and a good central relationship between Sam (Bret Harrison) and the Devil (Ray Wise). It’s similar to Chuck, but more easy-going and, I think, more fun.
But the ratings weren’t good, even by airing-against-American-Idol standards. And the fact that the CW scheduled the second season up against American Idol (moving their precious 90210 out of the way) suggests that the network considers this their sacrificial show, something they can cancel to prove they really do cancel shows for low ratings, just like a real network does.
I’m actually serious in the subject of this post; if this show doesn’t have much longer to run, maybe the production company should at least consider spinning off Ray Wise and making a whole show about him. It wouldn’t work on the youth-oriented CW, but it might work on a basic cable network. Anyway it seems like a shame to lose him.