Back in 1998 there was a very promising television series on the Fox Network. Unfortunately, the network never gave it a fighting chance, and it was soon gone as quickly as it had appeared. It was called Brimstone. The idea was that a dead cop (Horton) went to Hell for killing his wife’s rapists. He gets a second chance when the Devil (Glover) offers him his life back if he would become Hell’s bounty hunter. He would capture souls who had escaped from Hell. I loved the show and even participated in its attempts to be reprieved. I never did get to see the return of Brimstone, but the concept would return in the lighter Reaper. Reaper is like Buffy The Vampire Slayer meets Kids In The Hall.
Sam Oliver (Harrison) is a young guy who works at The Work Bench with many of his high school friends. The Bench is basically a Home Depot clone. One day the Devil (Wise) shows up in his car. It appears that his parents sold Sam’s soul to him, and now that he’s turned 21 it’s time to collect. Sam’s job is now to collect and returned escaped souls back to Hell. For each job he’s given a vessel that is, in some way, appropriate to the soul he’s tracking. The vessel can be a vacuum cleaner or an 8-track tape. Failure is not an option, as the Devil doesn’t take rejection lightly. To help him in his tasks he recruits his two best friends and co-workers. Sock (Labine) looks and acts a lot like Jack Black. He has crazy pointed hair and is basically a slacker. He’s always looking for the easy way out or the scam that will pay off for him, regardless of who gets hurt. He really does have a good heart and comes through just when Sam needs him to come through. Ben (Gonzales) is always coming up with crazy ideas like a self sucking straw. He’s hungry for attention and lacks in self confidence. He’s somewhat of the team tech guy. Sam is in love with Andi (Paregrym) who’s not sure if she can take the whole evil thing. She’ll help out in a pinch, and they have an on again, off again relationship.
In season 2 Ben falls in love with Nina (Wade), a demon who at first tries to kill Sam. She adds tremendously to the season both in personality and looks. She will remind you a ton of Anya from Buffy. She tends to have the same naiveté about things human, and I find her using many of the same body movements and expressions. This season also finds Ted (Stinson) in trouble with the Work Bench home office and losing his job as manager to Andi.
I never thought I would like a television Devil after watching John Glover do it so well back in Brimstone. While Glover is still my favorite, I must confess that Ray Wise really grows on you after a while and has created a rather twisted but somehow likable evil one. The chemistry between the members of the group is pretty good. As I mentioned, it’s more like Kids In The Hall than the Buffy Scooby Gang. They mess up as much as they succeed, and there’s always time to party in between. Sadly the series is now gone, and this release represents the last of The Reaper.
Episode IV: A New Hope: Star Wars reference aside, this episode nicely sets up the second season. The guys are back from a two week vacation and find out they’ve been kicked out of their homes and fired from The Bench. Getting back to the business of collecting souls, they now have to catch 20 souls with a cattle prod that requires time to recharge after each soul. Sam meets a guy who claims to have found a way out of his own deal with the Devil but won’t talk to Sam because he doesn’t want to get back on the Devil’s radar again. Sock finds out he has a hot Asian stepsister when the boys move into his mom’s house.
Dirty Sexy Mongol: Armed with a spear vessel, the boys go after a 13th Century Mongolian warrior. Ben adopts a bunny he names King Charles. A secret shopper at The Bench spells trouble for Ted.
Sweet Science: The vessel is a pair of boxing gloves, and Sam has to fight the soul to capture him. The problem is that this soul was a boxing champ. Ben begins dating the demon, Nina, but hides it from the guys. The Devil moonlights as an AA counselor with hilarious results.
The Favorite: Sam is asked to train another son of the Devil. Morgan is everything Sam is not. He revels in his evilness but is a lazy guy who doesn’t really want to put any effort into the job. Ted ends up panhandling in the parking lot, which gives Sock an idea of how to exploit him. The vessel is a letter opener, and the soul is out to collect all of his worldly processions, killing those who now own them. He’s got some gold coins that morph into golden deadly beetles.
I Want My Baby Back: Sam’s human dad is alive, sort of. His deal was for eternal life, so now he’s a living dead decaying zombie. The soul is a chick who thinks she’s a vampire, and the vessel is a wooden stake. She leaves behind a baby that is considered a chosen one by the demon world. Ted’s back at The Bench, but as a trainee.
Underbelly: The gang goes on a road trip to an isolated town harboring a demon. Andi isn’t so happy with how easily Sam takes his evil job and has to make a decision. The gang finds out about Nina.
The Good Soil: The group dynamics change when Sam and Andi break up. Morgan’s back for more training with orders from on low. He tries to bribe Sam to catch a soul for him, but it backfires. This time the soul is a sympathetic dweeb who just wants to have sex once before he goes to Hell. The gang tries to help him out, but Morgan interferes. Sock goes fly fishing with his new stepfather to try and tell him about his relationship with his stepsister, with disastrous results. When the gang refuses to capture the soul, the Ender stalks him. The Ender is the Devil’s failsafe creature that destroys souls that elude capture.
The Home Stretch: The Devil pits Sam and Morgan against each other to pick his successor. Of course, Sam doesn’t want to win, but manages to fail upwards. Nina wants to meet Ben’s deeply religious family, but Grandma has “the eye”, an ability to spot evil.
No Reaper Left Behind: Sam gets a tutor in evilness. He hopes to find a way out of his deal by seducing the woman to get her to reveal the Devil’s secrets. The plan becomes an unwitting love triangle with the Devil. Ben and Nina split up, but demons don’t take rejection very well. Sock’s going to regret getting in the middle of the relationship.
My Brother’s Reaper: Morgan moves in with the guys, and everybody but Sam appears to love the guy. Sam’s new job is to collect the signature from one of the Devil’s recent deals, but the guy’s not willing to sign and unleashes a polar bear on him. Sock plans Ted’s bachelor party with disastrous results. Go figure. Plus there’s stripper clowns.
To Sprong With Love: Nina goes in heat and is attracting demons from all over. Ben decides he must defend her honor, or die trying. Sam’s sent after his old biology teacher who always put the students down with cruelty and insults. This one Sam’s looking forward to. Even Andi doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty on this one, until they discover Sam misread the file. The teacher isn’t the escaped soul. The gang has to protect him from the escaped soul. Tough duty.
Business Casualty: Sam’s given a desk job by the Devil at an evil corporation. He also gets a text message from his human father in Hell. Dad’s found out how to break the deal. So, Nina goes to Hell to get the information. Sam continues to fail upward when a company rival falls out of his office window. Nina hooks Sock up with a demon blind date.
The Devil And Sam Oliver: In the final episode of the series, Sam finally challenges the Devil to a competition for his soul. The problem is that Heaven appears to be plotting against him. It all ends in a cliffhanger that will never be resolved.
Each episode is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. These DVD transfers are quite nice. The sharpness is excellent. Black levels are well above average for television, even in the HD age. Colors remain constant and solid throughout. Flesh tones are dead on reference. The f/x blend into the live action with amusing, but believable results.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 is pretty basic. Almost everything here is dialog. There are a few bits of audio candy from the supernatural elements and they are mixed well throughout the room. You can hear everything clearly. What else could you want from this show?
The Devil Made Me Do It – A Look Back At The Making Of The Reaper: (15:16) Cast and crew offer up their perspectives on the show and characters. A lot of this feature focuses on the pilot, which, of course, isn’t in this set. It includes a tour of The Work Bench set. There’s a closer look at the vessels and the stunts and f/x of the show. Again most of the clips come from season 1.
Deleted Scenes: (5:12) There are only 4.
Gag Reel (8:17).
Billy Joel said that Only The Good Die Young. Nowhere does that seem to be more true than when it comes to television shows. With all of the crap dominating the airwaves these days you would think there would be room for a show like this. It’s clever and very entertaining. Unfortunately, it’s also a genre show. That means you perform gangbusters or you’re out the door. Alas, we’ve seen the last of Sam and the gang at The Work Bench. If you haven’t caught the show, make sure you pick up both seasons right away. You too can discover “what it’s like to be a bounty hunter for the Devil”.