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One of the cliffhangers in this pre-upfront weekend is the fate of CW's "Reaper."
Its aud may be small (really small) but their love for the show burns like, well, hell fire. Its culty cachet is evidenced by its status as a Television Without Pity selection, among other examples of web-based fawning over the show about a young slacker who learns on his 20th birthday that he's going to work for the devil -- thanks to a Faustian bargain his mom and dad made some years back.
"Reaper's" pre-launch buzz about the strong cast (Bret Harrison, Tyler Labine and Missy Peregrym and Ray Wise as the Devil) and better-than-average writing didn't translate into much sampling. Show had a tough start and never found its footing in the Nielsen sense.
Word on the street as of this writing is that "Reaper," from ABC Studios and creators/exec producers Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, is very much on the bubble, and its only fighting chance may be as a midseason replacement. Here's to hoping the devil gets his due, for season two. We should know by Monday ayem.
Been thinking a lot about why primetime TV is in such a superhero-loving moment. No, it wasn't brought on by the onset (onslaught) of Comic-Con this week. It was Television Critics Assn. press tour and all the yak yak yak during the past fortnight about the upcoming season's new shows.
I was struck by the superhero-mania by realizing that that even high-end, Emmy-winning drama types a la writer-producer Kevin Falls and director Alex Graves are working in the genre (sort of) with NBC's "Journeyman." Our hero in this show is a San Francisco newspaper reporter who can travel through time and change the course of people's lives. Falls and Graves during the TCA sesh on the show took pains to stress that they were going for "grounded sci-fi," and that the show would hinge not on time travel but on relationships.
"It's a a time-travel show made by people who don't believe in time travel," assured Graves, whose past credits include "The West Wing," "Sports Night" and "Ally McBeal." Still, "Journeyman" has a mandate, one that he doesn't quite understand, to change people's lives for the better (and to keep viewers from changing the channel). Sounds superhero-ish to me.
It was NBC's own "Heroes," of course, sparked the most recent mania for supernatural storytelling with its breakout sizzle this past season. (BTW, the two pics posted here are from the soph season opener of "Heroes," tantalizingly titled "Four Months Later," set to air Sept. 24. Not many clues revealed in them but I figured they were a nice touch for anyone interested in this column's topic.)
In the coming season we have variations on the superhero theme in not only "Journeyman" but NBC's "The Bionic Woman," Fox's "The Sarah Connor Chronicles," and to a lesser degree (more about people with special powers than save-the-world-itis) in CW's "Reaper," ABC's "Pushing Daisies," from "Heroes" alum Bryan Fuller, and Fox's "New Amsterdam."
So why all the interest in characters with power to bend Newton's laws?
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.)