For the briefest of moments last year, it seemed like there was new life in Reaper, one of recent TV’s great cases of “I loved that show! Why the hell did they cancel it?” FEARnet added all 31 Reaper episodes to its roster of Tales from the Crypt re-runs and random horror films, and to celebrate the occasion they gathered together the show’s core cast members for a reunion special in which they mostly revealed how much of a blast it was making the show, kind of like a televised version of a Comic-Con panel appearance. Such occasions inevitably lead to talk of perhaps some kind of TV movie or, if you dare to dream, an actual new season of episodes, and during the reunion special the cast did joke about the possibility of a Kickstarter campaign funding a third season. Of course, nothing normally comes of that, and, sure enough, it’s over a year later and we are still left with no new Reaper. In fact, and this seems kind of fitting for the perpetual underdog that was Reaper, the cable network which just started airing it in re-runs isn’t even around anymore. FEARnet died a very quiet, “Hey, where did that channel go?” death two months ago.
Wait, what’s Reaper?
Just in case you don’t already know, Reaper centered on a beta-male type (Sam, played by Bret Harrison) who has to work for the devil as a bounty hunter of escaped souls due to a deal his parents made with the Devil prior to his birth. His eccentric best friends, the gregarious Sock (Labine) and fastidious Ben (Rick Gonzalez), help him out. Perhaps not surprising considering he had the flashiest role, Ray Wise‘s remarkably hilarious turn as the constantly amused Devil stole the show. Wise played the Devil as equally delighted by his own fiendishness and Sam’s ineffectiveness (e.g., Sam tries to summon the devil by drawing a pentagram on the ground, but accidentally draws a star of David, about which the Devil chuckles before excitedly proclaiming, “Mazzeltov!”).
So, it could have come back?
Personally, I never thought Reaper had a shot at coming back mostly because securing a syndication deal on a cable network no one watched didn’t really seem like that big of a deal, especially not when the show has previously been available in its entirety on Netflix and currently has its first season up on Hulu. It was still nice seeing the cast back together, though.
Well, according to the show’s co-creators Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters it was so nice seeing everyone back together last year that a proper set of new episodes almost happened..
Before we get to the pertinent quotes from their recent Nerdist Writer’s Panel podcast appearance, we have to set the stage a little bit. Reaper was one of those shows that wasn’t actually made by the network that aired it. ABC Studios actually made the show, but in the U.S. it aired on The CW. During the show’s 2007-2009 run, The CW was quickly morphing into the home for shows teenage girls loved, specifically Gossip Girl. That made Reaper, which drew mostly male viewers, the odd man out, and pretty much no one at the network really cared about it. However, ABC Studios loved it and made plenty of money selling it to various international markets, e.g., it was apparently very popular in Europe. As a result, when The CW canceled the show ABC did everything it could to find it a new home, ultimately failing to finalize a deal with SyFy before Brett Harrison and Tyler Labine’s contracts expired. During this time, Mark Pedowitz was one of the show’s biggest champions at ABC Studios. Cut to today, and Pedowitz has moved up in the world, exiting ABC in favor of being the President of The CW, which has begun courting more and more male viewers with shows like Arrow during his tenure.
So, here’s what Fazekas/Butters had to say about coming back (the podcast interviewer never actually identifies which one is Fazekas and which is Butters meaning I actually don’t know for sure which one of the two said the following):
“A return came up when FEARnet picked up the show [..] and we talked about it for a while. Mark Pedowitz was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do a summer series of that.’ But then it turned into, ‘Well, let’s do a pilot,’ and we were like, ‘I’m not going to do a pilot for a show that I already developed. We know what the show is already.’ But there was a moment there after we had the FEARnet reunion – the entire cast came, even people who weren’t regulars on the show, like Christina Willes and Ken Marino. They were all talking about how much they loved the job, and they were all available or didn’t have steady gigs. We were like, ‘We could do this.’ The other way to do it is to just use Ray Wise as the Devil, and have a whole group of new guys. We’d hate to do that, though.”
Fazekas and Butters started their careers as assistants on The X-Files before ultimately writing for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Law & Order: SVU. Reaper was the first show they could actually call their own, and though it only stuck around for a short while the relationships they made with ABC Studios at that time is a big reason they now have not one but two different shows they are running for ABC, Resurrection (soon to return for its second season) and Agent Carter (set to premiere its 8-episode season in early 2015). So, they’re ever so busy, but neither Resurrection nor Agent Carter existed yet when the Reaper cast re-union went down. The point being that based on their current schedules the window for a Reaper revival may have been very brief, and it’s probably passed now.
Reaper left off with Sam’s girlfriend now stuck in the same position as him, i.e., tied to an eternal contract with the devil. In prior interviews, we’ve learned that a season 3 would have put her to work with the DMV demon, and that the mystery surrounding Sam’s father would have been resolved. At this point, it’s not clear where they’d go with the story considering how much time has passed, and that cartoon or comic book continuation which has been teased in the past has never moved beyond the teasing stage.
But maybe it’s best that it stay dead, its legacy untarnished by an Arrested Development-like good-but-not-good-enough batch of new episodes. Heck, Tyler Labine is basically starring in his own version of Reaper right now, Hulu’s Deadbeat, in which he basically plays a Sock-like character who can see dead people. It’s actually better than you’d guess based on the trailers, but it’s no Reaper:
In the rest of Fazekas and Butters’ interview, they discuss their entire career and what it’s like working with Marvel on Agent Carter. About Reaper, they discuss the origins, the pitch process, how Sock was based off one of the show’s writers (who now writes for Agent Carter), how The CW initially inundated them with notes on the scripts but then seemed to stop paying attention to them altogether, and what it was like watching Louie C.K. and Paul Feig (Bridemaids director) audition for the part of The Devil. They apparently still run into people from The CW who admit they shouldn’t have canceled Reaper. As you might expect, that doesn’t actually make Fazekas or Butters feel better; it just annoys them. You can listen to the full interview at Nerdist.com. If you want to re-watch the first season (or experience its brilliance for the first time) head over to Hulu Plus.
What about you? Would you welcome a Reaper return? Or think they should just let it stay dead? Just impressed I resisted the urge to make some lazy pun about a show named Reaper being resurrected from the dead? Don’t be – I didn’t go there mostly just because I suck at puns. I’ll stop writing now. If you want to take over for me get started in the comments section.