Network Television Needs 'Reaper'

by Paul William Tenny

reaper.jpgThe series that had its pilot directed by the always awesome Kevin Smith will make its debut tonight on The CW in about one hour. I plan to catch it Thursday night so that I can watch House this evening, but that isn't to say I'm not looking forward to it. A lot of people are looking forward to it, so much so that some pundits are quietly wondering if series like Reaper could add to the success of America's Next Top Model, and bring The CW into true competition with the big four networks.

Says BuddyTV: "Reaper is a sci-fi comedy that may remind viewers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, while Gossip Girl is a Josh Schwartz produced teen drama set in the swanky Upper East Side of Manhattan. Though both show's should and will be judged on their own merits, they remind of two shows that elevated the FOX network out of the same network doldrums in which the CW currently resides." I agree, and I can't say this enough because of the massive disappointment the networks have always been. They never take risks yet make end up ordering shows that have the least potential for success. Take for example the retarded cave-man sitcom that was based on a Geico commercial. Zero potential for success, everyone knows this series won't make it even to half season. Did it get ordered to series? Of course it did.

Look at how Fox has treated their stable of shows over the past few years, commissioning and them quickly canceling two series from Tim Minear. I didn't see Drive and based on how quickly it was taken off the air, not many other people had the opportunity either. I'm a huge fan, as are a lot of people, of Firefly. Firefly was better than the X-Files and probably could have been at least as big and successful. Don't believe me? The X-Files took something like seven seasons before they made a movie based on that property - Firefly only lasted 13 episodes and still got a feature film.

If The X-Files were commissioned by Fox today, and got Firefly's numbers which it probably did when it originally debuted, would it have made it nine seasons? Hell no, they would have dropped it like a bad-bag-o-weed.

If you watch any amount of television then I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, but there is a point to be made here. Fox became what it is now because it took a chance on a campy science fiction show back when nobody thought science fiction could make a living on television, and even after the success of Lost and Heroes, they still say that today.

It is precisely that kind of risk that reaps rewards, and I'm glad The CW - a network not known for making quality development decisions - is going down that road. It's not that people don't want Sci-fi, it's that they want good Sci-fi. With Kevin Smith behind the lens, at least for the pilot, the quality is already there.

All Reaper needs is a chance to live.


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