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.