Part of The CW and a show that suffered heavily from the writers’ strike, Reaper may have slipped through the cracks and under the radars of the majority of those watching television at the time. It was never heavily promoted and the show itself seemed to get tossed around a bit on the network, even now as it has yet to return with its second season (though that’s scheduled for sometime next year). With an undoubtedly shaky future ahead of itself, Reaper has to do it’s best to win over new viewers—and what better way to do that than with a complete season DVD release?
Meet Satan’s biggest tools. The first season of the hilarious comedy series “Reaper,” which was declared “devilishly fun” by the San Francisco Chronicle, will be available on DVD November 4, 2008. Reaper: Season One includes all 18 episodes from the freshman season and is loaded with special bonus materials including deleted scenes and commentary with cast and crew. Starring Bret Harrison (TV’s “Grounded for Life”) and Ray Wise (TV’s “Twin Peaks”), who received a TCA Award nomination for Individual Achievement for his performance, “Reaper” follows the turbulent life of Sam (Harrison), a slacker whose world turns upside down on his 21st birthday when he learns that his parents sold his soul to the Devil (Wise). Forced to be Hell’s bounty hunter, Sam, with the aid of his goofball friends, must track down evil-doers and send them back where they belong.
Though I’d heard about the show from a friend, I never made an effort to check it out (I know, big mistake on my part). I had this stigma about The CW showing shows that were only moderately entertaining (I got this idea from a history of Smallville) and didn’t want to waste my time. However, with the TV show on DVD season coming to a bit of a close for last season’s fair, Reaper was one of the last out of the gate to see a season release and I opted to give it a shot. Going into the series I only knew a very basic premise and had no idea that Kevin Smith was a consultant on the show (and directed the pilot) which instantly added weight to my curiosity about the show.
I was instantly rewarded by this series, with plenty of hilarious jokes, fantastic characters and a brand of humor that can only be described as “Kevin Smith but for TV.” I didn’t want to peg the show into a Smith-like scenario at first, but quite honestly the way the characters, Bert “Sock” Wysocki(Tyler Labine) especially, talk it sounds like something that may come out of a Smith characters mouth. That’s not to discredit the creators of the show, Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas, any as they do a remarkable job keeping the show on pace throughout the eighteen episodes on the set.
Well, they keep it on pace for the most part, anyway. I felt towards the end of the season that the show was veering more into mindless monster hunter territory, with plots cropping up with so much drama that it felt like something out of a Buffy episode (which isn’t necessarily bad, I enjoyed that show after all, but it just felt like it’d been done before). I didn’t like the way they handled some of the revelatory aspects of the series and at times things just seemed to be rushed through for the sake of moving the story along. Normally that’s beneficial, but in this shows case it just seemed like a waste; as a television series it should allow plotlines to breathe a bit, but the general reactions of some of the characters in the show just didn’t seem to gel with the rest of the episodes. While we do get to expand and focus on the supporting cast individually, those subplots can become a bit cumbersome, such as Ben (Rick Gonzalez), marrying a woman (played by Lucy Davis of The Office [UK] fame) so she could stay in the US. It seemed just to draw unnecessary focus away from the story and it was a plot that ultimately went nowhere.
While I still enjoy the show immensely, I think binge-watching them (I cleared through eighteen episodes in the span of two days…my eyes are still quite bleary) helped provide a perspective on the show that you wouldn’t normally get from watching it week to week. This is true for almost any show, but the shows gradual change from a pure comedic/romantic type show got an incredible level of drama infused into it that I’m not sure entirely works for it. Thankfully the tone is still kept light, but with all of the revelations of Sam’s relationship with the devil and what possible meanings they may contain, I’m just not as entertained by those aspects as I am by the moments with Sam, Ben and Sock goofing around. Also entertaining, of course, is Missy Peregrym as Andi, the love of Sam’s life. She doesn’t fill the usual “dream girl” role in the show simply because she’s someone that is easily relatable, which is something that the entire shows cast can be classified as. It’s simply so enjoyable because it’s genuinely believable. Until you start mixing in an influx of demons and whatnot, anyway.
The only area of the season I found to be particularly weak is the way it explained some things. One element in particular that bugs me is how Sam’s trips with the Devil work exactly. At times we see him returning back to where the Devil transported him from and other times it seems he’s left to find his own way back. It’s incredibly unclear how that whole teleportation thing is working. Another is the continuity of the show, which until the last few episodes of the season, there appeared to be done. While that’s great for anyone who wants to just hop into it, early on in the season we’re set up with the actual copy of the contract for Sam’s soul, but it disappears for over a dozen episodes before finally popping up again. Also bewildering is in the second to last episode of the season, Andi’s hair is cut short but then in the season finale it’s incredibly long again.
Of course this is the show’s first season so a few things are bound to be a bit rough, but as well thought out and clever the dialogue is in this show, it just seems like the ball is dropped in a myriad of other places. Overall this series is far from perfect, but it’s been awhile since I’ve so genuinely enjoyed watching a brand new series that I spend a whole day watching over a dozen episodes of it. It’s a series well worth checking out and one that comes Highly Recommended.
Although Lionsgate has given some impressive treatment for their TV show on DVD releases in the past (the recent Mad Men remains an insane example of just how packed they can make their releases), Reaper’s first season seems to have been shortchanged by a healthy margin. Although it comes in a fairly unique package, the art comes off overly cheesy with the reflective foil fire and a translucent slipcase with Sam, Satan and Sock on the cover (where’s Ben? He got kind of short changed…). Why that’s all that’s printed on the plastic slip I don’t know and it seems like an idea that was aborted halfway through and they just went with what they had. Nothing about this package portrays an ounce of the series charm or humor and quite frankly it’s something I’d pass up on the shelf without a second thought—it honestly and truly looks like a bargain bin DVD release. The case itself is a doublewide Viva case that houses the five discs on revolving trays and an insert with descriptions of each of the episodes. It’s not terribly exciting, but it’ll do.
Video for the release is what you’d expect from a modern show and it has plenty of detail, although some of the more fast paced sequences become prone to compression and artifacting at times. Overall, however, it’s a solid transfer, although the Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is a bit of a curious addition. Why no 5.1? Wasn’t this broadcast on the CW in HD, where 5.1 is the norm? Seems rather strange to me why they’d stick this series with a stereo track, but it’d certainly explain why my surrounds weren’t getting much activity (and what it was getting was due to the Pro Logic IIx compensating), although there was certainly a solid level of bass in the series, but that too you could tell was something the Pro Logic was manufacturing, as it didn’t have quite the same intensity as a true 5.1 track would have. Disappointing on that front, but…we haven’t even seen what’s so disappointing about this release yet.
Moving onto the extras, we’re promised “Audio Commentaries” on the back of the box and commentaries with “cast and crew” in the official description (as noted in the second paragraph of this review, which is a verbatim copy of the PR release). First off while a commentary does exist, it is just that: a single commentary. Nor does it contain any cast, as only Michele Fezekas, Tara Butters, and Deborah Spera are on board. It’s a fairly entertaining track, but they go quiet quite a few times on the track to watch what’s happening and even cut out mid-sentence to just watch. It’s quite distracting and highly annoying as it happens more than once, but for the most part the trio makes for an entertaining time. Sadly this being the only track, we don’t get to hear from anyone else on the matter.
Moving onto the fifth disc we have a “Gag Reel” (4:30) and a selection of “Deleted Scenes” (7:22). Want more? Too bad. That’s it. There are no more extras, not even a short making-of or a copy of Kevin Smith’s panel at Comic Con where he showed the pilot. Hell aside from a few mentions of Smith on the commentary and his “consultant” tag on each episode, there’s nothing from the man who would’ve undoubtedly boosted sales of this set if they’d just name dropped a bit. I get them not wanting to make this out to be Smith’s show, but at least mentioning that may have netted a few more sales. The whole promotion of this season set is baffling to me, as the extras are light, the packaging is relatively lame and unattractive and there seems to be no advertising campaign behind it.
Overall while the series is fantastic, this set is not. If you’re a fan of the series then you’ll want to pick it up just to own it, but as far as extras go on this one? Not even worth blinking. This set’s still Recommended, but newcomers may want to test it with a Rental first.
Reaper: Season 1 is now available on DVD.