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July 6, 2013

FEARnet Presents A "Reaper" Reunion Special

Hello everyone,

This is Jacob O'Neal from The Gorram Nerd Hour. Kevin Moyers had asked me to come over to Cinema Head Cheese to do a guest review for the blog. Knowing I am a huge fan of the short lived CW series Reaper he gave me the screener that was sent to him by the great folks at FEARnet. It started with a reunion special and then went into the pilot episode. The reunion special was roughly about a half hour and started with the four main cast members (Bret Harrison, Tyler Labine, Ray Wise & Rick Gonzalez) being interviewed about their time on the series. Later they were joined by Christine Willies, Ken Marino and the creators of the show Tara Butters & Michelle Fazakis.

What first struck me about this reunion was that each of the actors seemed to genuinely love their characters, miss the show and each other.  In fact, Ray Wise was dressed in a suit with one of the original neck ties from the show. Willies came out wearing horns and immediately began talking about her make out session with Labine on the show. Labine and Harrison both expressed their great love for the show and how the fans blamed them for why they didn't get a third season. The CW dragged their feet on renewing the show and each of those actors took pilots for new series. They also speculate as to whether that's the reason their other shows didn't do very well. Hell hath no fury like a Reaper fan scorned. Take that, Sons Of Tucson!

All in all, the reunion special was a very fun half hour. In a way it was like catching up with old friends. I have missed the show dearly since its departure in 2009 and hope that FEARnet finds a way to bring the show back to life. There was talk from the cast and crew about going the Kickstarter route like Veronica Mars and giving us something in the near future. Given the enthusiasm of everyone involved, especially Ray Wise who says he misses the Devil more than any other character he's played, I cannot wait to see what they might do. Whether it's a movie, a new season on FEARnet(?) or even something animated along the lines of Todd and The Book Of Pure Evil. I just want more Reaper.

Along with the reunion special they also included the pilot episode of the series on the disc. It stars all the afore mentioned actors as well as being written by the show creators. It was directed by Kevin Smith, the first time directing television as well as a script that was not his own. And, until Red State, I would say this was his best directed piece.

Originally aired in the fall of 2007 the story revolves around Sam, a slacker, who had recently left college because he was sleeping in every one of his classes. So he moved back in with his parents and started working at The Work Bench (a Home Depot style warehouse store) with his best friends Sock (Labine) and Ben (Gonzalez) while he harbored a deep crush on Andi, a cashier, pkayed by Missy Peregrym. Sam's life abrubtly changes on his 21st birthday when he discovers that his parents had sold his soul to the Devil before he was born and that the contract was set to be redeemed on the day of Sam's 21st. But Satan doesn't want to take him to Hell. Nope, he wants him to find and collect escaped souls and send them back to Hell. He quickly enlists the help of Sock and Ben to fight a pyromaniac fireman.

Fazakis and Butters came from working on heavily dramtic series such as The X-Files and Law & Order: SVU. When it came time to make Reaper they decided early on that this show was to be light and fun. That isn't to say the show didn't have heart. It truly does. And that was Kevin Smith did so well with the pilot episode - he elevated the comedy and brought the heart to the forefront. What he and his DP Dave Klein did with the pilot set a perfect tone for the remainder of the series.

Overall I would say this is a very strong pilot episode and gets 4 out of 5 stars. The reunion special was fun but felt too short and poorly edited. That receives 3 out 5.

Before I go I must talk for a moment about Ray Wise. Ever since I was a boy I have been a fan of this man. From his work in Swamp Thing and Robocop to his wonderfully twisted run on another short lived series that lives on in the hearts of devotees, Twin Peaks, he has astounded me with his work. There has always been a sort of impish delight in his villainous characters that makes you love to hate him. And, for my money, he was the only choice to play the Devil. He described how he came up with the character in the reunion special as part used car salesman and part bad talk show host. The Devil was someone handsome, charming, likeable and slimey to the core. Wise played the role so well I would say he is quite possibly my favorite on screen devil to date.

Listen to The Gorram Nerd Hour every Wednesday(ish) on Abnormal Entertainment.

The entire series of Reaper is available on DVD and can be seen Tuesdays on FEARnet along with the network's first original comedy Holliston, starring directors Adam Green and Joe Lynch (A review of that coming soon).

You can also go to to hear an interview with FEARnet president Peter Block I conducted at The Phoenix Film Festival or watch it on YouTube.

Thanks to Kevin Moyers for the screener and the awesome Vessel that came along with it.

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