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James Hibberd

The CW Reaps What ABC Sowed

July 24, 2007 11:45 AM

The first interesting thing about The CW’s “Reaper” is how weirdly similar it is to NBC’s “Chuck.”

The two shows have wildly different loglines (“Reaper” about a slacker whose parents sold his soul and has to work as the devil’s bounty hunter to pay off his debt; “Chuck” about a computer geek with government secrets downloaded into his brain).

But both are dramedies following an underachieving twenty-something guy with a zany best friend working in a big box department store who gains an extraordinary ability and is co-opted into fighting evil for a mysterious organization.

Both pilots are also, surprisingly, good (and, until last week when Ben Silverman played switcheroo with NBC’s fall schedule, shared the same timeslot).

“I've seen it,” “Reaper” executive producer Mark Gordon says of “Chuck.” “Our show is better.”

Gordon is right. While “Chuck” is likeable in the glossy, snappily edited style of executive producer McG, “Reaper” is scrappy and subversive in the style of its pilot director, Kevin Smith. Critics at TCA like “Chuck,” but voted “Reaper” the second best pilot of the fall.

“Chuck,” however, feels more likely to be a ratings success. In addition to being on NBC’s Monday night lineup rather than Tuesdays on The CW, “Chuck” stars the female-demo-siphoning Zachary Levi—an actor who plays geeky the way Anne Hathaway plays ugly (which is to say: not very convincingly due to genetics).

The second interesting thing about “Reaper” is who produces it: ABC Studios, which means mothership ABC had first dibs to pick it up. Nobody knows if “Reaper” will be a hit, but it’s miles funnier than “Cavemen.”

The best reason for ABC to shrug off “Reaper” is its concept is hugely off brand for the network—it likely will skew male and younger than most ABC programming. But really: Would gaining a few young males really hurt the estrogen-drenched network? ABC has been looking for a light-tone, one-hour show to follow “Lost” and this could have been it.


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Comments (4)

Bill Bauwens:

The CW lost me for any new shows after killing Veronica Mars. No way am I going to invest in any shows on that network as, odds are, they won't live to see anything past Season 2. They arguably had one of the ten best shows on television, didn't promote it, and tinkered with what made is successful in the first place. What makes anyone think that they've learned from their mistakes? The CW is a mess, from Dawn Ostroff on down and it shouldn't be rewarded with viewership for destroying quality programming.

Mark Jeffries:

Wah, wah, wah, fanboi geek. "Veronica Mars" was never--repeat, *never* a hit and wouldn't have lasted 13 weeks at any other networks than UPN or The CW. You should be happy that you got a helluva lot more opportunities to masturbate to Kristen Bell than you would if it had been a *real* network.

And besides, fanboi geek, it's only a TV show. GET A LIFE.

Royce Ackerman:

Veronica Mars ran for 3 seasons despite being one of the lowest rated shows on television. Be mad if you want to, but it was given a much better chance than many other shows.
That said, I've seen the pilots for both Chuck and Reaper, Reaper is much more entertaining, not to mention its cast is better in pretty much every way.

Thomas Motts:

I enjoyed Chuck, I thought the cast worked well, but I can't see it working as a series. The premise is thin at best. Even if you ignore the technological impossibilities of the entire contents of an NSA/CIA database being stored on a portable machine then somehow being emailed in under 30 seconds and then somehow being opened and memorised by some guy just by looking at them, it doesn't make sense that they'd just get jobs at his work to keep track of him. It's not as if the information he has would stay relevant forever and if they're relying on him remembering bits and pieces it becomes virtually worthless unless he happens to be standing in front of a location of interest.

Reaper, is slightly more believable in a way since I found it easier to suspend my disbelief and go with the concept since it didn't need any real world explanation to make it work.

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