Thursday, 31 January 2008

REAPER 1.2 – "Charged"

Thursday, 31 January 2008
Writers: Tara Butters & Michele Fazekas
Director: Peter Lauer

Cast: Bret Harrison (Sam Oliver), Rick Gonzalez (Ben), Tyler Labine (Bert "Sock" Wysocki), Ray Wise (The Devil), Missy Peregrym (Andi Prendergast), Donavon Stinson (Ted), Andrew Airlie (Mr. Oliver), Valarie Rae Miller (Josie), Allison Hossack (Mrs. Oliver), Kyle Switzer (Kyle Oliver), Mark Rolston (Arthur Ferrey), Steve Makaj (Engineer), Christine Willes (DMV Demon), Tricia Collins (Blackberry Girl) & Jennifer Paterson (Norma)

Sam has to return an escaped soul to hell who is killing people using bolts of lightning...

"You have broken the most cardinal rule here at the Bench:
a bloodied customer is not a happy customer."
-- Ted (Donavon Stinson)

My review of Reaper's first episode was based on the un-aired Pilot, and there's been a few changes to the show from what I remember. The most obvious alteration is that Sam's love-interest, Andi, is now being played by Heroes' Missy Peregrym. She's a stark improvement over the original actress, and gets to ditch the psycho-bitch undercurrent of her Heroes character, making Andi beautiful but believably down-to-earth.

I also don't remember Sam's mother (Allison Hossack) being unaware her son's soul was sold to The Devil (Ray Wise). But it doesn't matter because he tells her at the end of episode 2 -- and she accepts that ridiculous notion with zero reaction!

Charged finds Sam (Bret Harrison) trying to avoid his new responsibility as Old Nick's bounty hunter. After waking up to discover a locked box (containing a "vessel" to capture another escaped soul), Sam and his best-friend Sock (Tyler Labine) do their best to get rid of it... but it keeps reappearing.

As they try to get on with their lives at the Work Bench store, The Devil appears and tries to reason with Sam – by showing him that people are dying because a rogue soul is wandering around town, killing with bolts of lightning. Oh, but don't worry -- he's charged Sam with static electricity to help -- but all it does is provide a few "funny" scenes of Sam getting shocked on everyday objects! The vessel itself turns out to a remote-controlled monster truck (huh?), meaning Sam has to figure out how it can be used to capture the latest escapee from Hell. Okay?

It's very early days, but I found Charged to be even more disappointing than the limp Pilot. The problems with episode 2 are obvious: Sam's friends do little to actually help him in any way (often becoming irritating soundboards), and the whole episode just isn't very funny. I'm actually struggling to remember anything that made me laugh. The Pilot was a laugh-riot compared to this...

I'm still not totally sold on any of the actors, either -- beyond Missy Peregrym. Bret Harrison is too screwy for my taste, Tyler Labine is just distilling every "fat-zany-slacker-friend" cliché in the book, and Sam's parents are utterly bland support.. .

But it's Ray Wise who is awfully second-rate at the moment, as his Devil character comes across as a smooth estate agent, instead of the "Prince Of Lies". I know he's on Sam's side, but he should be far more sinister or devious in his attitude. At the very least playful! Wise has a suitably demonic face, but he's far too chummy at the moment, and a sense unease around him is lost. How can you mess up writing for The Devil? They had better give him a fitting personality change, pronto.

The story itself has a decent raison d'etre for the electrically-charged escapee Arthur Ferrey (Mark Rolston), but the character himself isn't very threatening, and easily deal with once Sam figures out how to use the toy truck to capture him. Quite why The Devil chooses to make things harder than they need to be, by equipping Sam with different "vessels", is anyone's guess!

Overall, there's nothing much more to add. The only things I liked about Charged was Missy Peregrym's girl-next-door act, irritating boss Ted (Donavon Stinson), and the electrical effects for the soul-of-the-week villain. Beyond that; this was plodding in the first half (the show itself would work better at 30-minutes), not particularly funny, littered with nitpicks, and Wise needs to sink his teeth into the role more.

30 January 2008
E4, 9.00 pm