Every place that seems like Hell on Earth is actually indeed a portal to Hell. If nothing else, REAPER cements the DMV's reputation as a place of the damned. Awesomely, this series is peppered with other like conceits. On his twenty-first birthday, slacker Sam Oliver learns that his parents didn't buy him a car for his present, but they did sell his soul to the Devil. More specifically, Sam's parents sold his soul to the Devil before he was even born. They just waited 'til his twenty-first birthday to tell him. A car would've gone down better. In a weird way, this infernal contract turns out to be beneficial to the rudderless Sam. Old Scratch, instead of dragging him down to Hell, tasks him with tracking down escaped souls and returning them to Hell. With each mission Sam receives a wooden box which supplies him with the appropriate fiendish tool (or "vessel") to get the job done, except that these tools take the shape of everyday household items.
It could've been so much worse for Sam Oliver. But as Satan's bounty hunter, he still gets to eke out a normal life on Earth. And by "normal life" it's meant that Sam still toils at his dead-end gig at the Work Bench, the local home-improvement store, and still pines for the cute and level-headed Andi Prendergast (Missy Peregrym, who here has got that Hilary Swank look down). So, all parallels drawn to CHUCK are perhaps valid. Except that REAPER isn't written or acted or executed as well as CHUCK, and the special effects are pure queso. What REAPER has going for it is a certain shabby likability and a wonderful, quirky sense of fun. The show's primary weapon is clearly Ray Wise who plays Satan with equal doses of roguishness and menace. Ray Wise is so tanned George Hamilton is staring daggers at him. The Devil, for whatever reason, seems intent on cozying up to Sam. But Sam sort of has it in his mind to find a loophole in his contract. Meanwhile, we endure episode after episode of the guy whining and moping and acting the weak wallflower when it comes to his love life. It makes for a frustrating watch. "Grow a set, Sam!" I yelled at the screen until the neighbors furiously knocked on my door.
Sam's best friend, Sock, is always good for laughs. Sock is one of those crazy chums that always lands you in trouble just by association. But Sock and Sam's other buddy, Ben (Rick Gonzalez), are loyal and they provide invaluable backup to Sam's demonic missions. Sock is played by the hilarious Tyler Labine who looks like Ryan Reynolds fifty pounds later.
As has been pointed out, much of Sam's more mundane dealings concerns his passive-aggressive romancing of Andi. But another ongoing thread - which ties into his wanting out of his indentured service to the Prince of Lies - follows his involvement with the underground demon rebellion seeking to overthrow Satan. These fallen angels have arrived at a sly scheme, except what chance do they really have when, as they say, the Devil's in the details? The Devil's tanned, not stupid. As Satan ominously remarks to his newest bounty hunter: "I won't be dissed, Sam."
After two seasons of laughs and quirkiness and Sam Oliver battling supernatural fugitives - with each of his targets possessed of a terrifying power - REAPER was, er, exorcised from the small screen. CW just wouldn't give the Devil his due. I'm pretty bummed out. But at least my neighbors leave me alone again.
For those wondering, REAPER Season One has 5 discs containing all 18 episodes and with the following bonus material: an audio commentary for the pilot episode; deleted scenes; and a gag reel.