The pilot of CW's "Reaper" has been one of the pleasant surprises in this year's crop of new shows. Everyone I talked to about it says virtually the same thing, that they didn't expect to like it as much as they did. It's hard to describe in a logline, which is usually a good sign for a show. The CW has heard all the industry buzz about the show and thus skedded it as the last of their day at TCA Friday, in an effort to get writers to stick around a dark hotel ballroom around on a beautiful Friday afternoon. Show is particularly well cast, with Brett Harrison playing a slacker dude, Sam, who learns on his 21st birthday that mom and dad inadvertently sold his soul to the devil. Devil shows up to enlist Sam in his new chores of helping him track down nasty souls who have escaped from hell.
Ray Wise, known for his role as Leland Palmer on "Twin Peaks" and a plenty of feature character roles, is utterly charming in his role as the Devil, and he turned on that wicked charm (and ultra-bright teeth) for the scribes on Friday. So did Tyler Labine, who is very good in the role as Sock, Sam's rambunctious friend and fellow coworker in a dead-end retail job at the local big-box Home Depot-esque store. Kevin Smith helmed the pilot seg but he was not on hand for the sesh. Exec producer Mark Gordon said Smith would be around to "help us out once and a while" but didn't sound too emphatic about Smith's ongoing participation. Nonetheless, he set a cool funny-scary tone in the pilot.
(Pictured above, left to right, top row: "Reaper" exec producers Deb Spera, Mark Gordon, Tara Butters, Michelle Fazekas. Bottom row: stars Valarie Rae Miller, Rick Gonzalez, Tyler Labine and Brett Harrison. Pictured below, Ray Wise.)
"I'd like to quell the rumors that Sock is stupid," he said when asked why his character so blithely goes along with his friend's declaration that he's now a bounty hunter for the man downstairs. The sesh was mostly a lovefest so not too lively (we learned that Michelle Fazekas' brother works in a Home Depot), other than a few riffs on how they're trying to come up with their own slacker language of combo'ing words a la mashups. "Thrillomedy" was one Labine came up with on the spot to describe "Reaper's" blend of dark and funny.
When questioned about whether they'd be able to keep up the heavy-duty special effects and pyrotechnics featured in the pilot seg, co-creator Michelle Fazekas noted that they've been surprised at how economical such wizardry is today, and that the show is using the same firm, Stargate Digital, that has cooked up all big-time FX for NBC's "Heroes."
"It really is a monster of the week show, isn't it," Labine piped up, sounding as if he was just figuring it out on the spot.
(Toward the end of the sesh, Labine dropped a intriguing tidbit for fans of the last series he was on, ABC's "Invasion." Can't say I stuck with that show so not entirely clear what he was getting at, but heads in the TCA crowd nodded as Labine explained that the Big Event that opened that show wasn't an alien invasion per se but the emergence of an "evolutionary divide" between "sea people" and "land people." Got it?)
Based on the reaction from the TCA crowd, it looks like the Mark Gordon Co. -- which is tres hot right now under the direction of TV chief Deb Spera with "Grey's Anatomy," "Criminal Minds" and Lifetime's new hit "Army Wives" -- has the makings of a CW success story on its hands.