A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that even though the central character of this dark supernatural comedy series is forced to work for Satan, adventure trumps discussions about the nature of good and evil, and the Devil is portrayed as a rather genial boss (rather than, say, the ultimate embodiment of malevolence). The main characters are typical "slackers" who goof off, go drinking after work (they're all of age), and pepper their language with words like "d--k" and "crap." There are some fairly intense scenes when the guys face down the baddies, but it's nothing that veterans of shows like Buffy and X-Files won't be able to handle.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In this entertaining show about the lighter side of working for the original Boss from Hell, Sam Oliver (Bret Harrison) turns 21 only to discover that, long before he was born, his parents sold his soul to the Devil in return for curing Sam's terribly sick father (they hadn't planned on having kids anyway). But Mrs. Oliver does get pregnant, and 21 years later Lucifer comes to collect his due. The deal is simple: Sam will be the Devil's bounty hunter on Earth, tracking down escaped souls that need to be returned to Hell. If he refuses, the Devil will take his mother's soul. It's a pretty easy choice, made even more so because the Devil (Ray Wise) is just so darn likeable, coming off as a well-meaning, well-off uncle than Satan himself. A standard-issue slacker because his parents knew of his short shelf life and never pushed him to excel in anything, Sam puts up little opposition to his new role doing the Devil's work.
Is it any good?
Reaper's droll take on the Devil and Sam's awkward efforts to track down the wayward souls is quite funny, and Sam's best buddy Bert (Tyler Labine) adds some Jack Black-like madcap energy to the series. But at times it seems like the series is playing just a bit too fast and loose with morality's main characters. Making the Devil a sympathetic guy is a risky strategy, and Reaper could upset some religious viewers, though the script does make some efforts to head off such criticisms: "I've seen how this all ends," the Devil says while explaining Sam's new duties. "God wins."
It's no accident that Reaper's tone is reminiscent of Dogma, Kevin Smith's dark comedy about a pair of wayward angels. Smith, who helped define the slacker-comedy genre, directed Reaper's pilot and is still involved in the series, and it's funny and irreverent in the same vein as his best films, which can be both entertaining and annoying.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about good and evil. Though he's working for the Devil, is Sam performing a good deed by returning the escaped souls of evil people to Hell? How does the Devil in this show compare to versions in other films and TV shows? What point -- if any -- is the show trying to make by having the Devil seem like a fairly decent guy? Do you think this show is likely to ruffle feathers among religious viewers? Why or why not?