There is probably no better casting in a new fall series than Ray Wise as Satan in The CW's "Reaper" (9 tonight, WPCW). Wise has played bad guys before, most notably Laura Palmer's murder-minded, possessed father on "Twin Peaks," and with his Cheshire cat grin and terrifically fun dialogue by series creators Michelle Fazekas and Tara Butters ("Ed"), Wise is one lucky devil. And so are viewers who appreciate lighthearted, supernatural dramas.
The story begins as big box store employee Sam (Bret Harrison, "The Loop") awakens on his 21st birthday. His parents are acting odd, but his younger, more successful brother is just as obnoxious as usual.
"The guy's 21, lives with his parents and wears an apron for a living," younger brother says. "There's no happy in that birthday, Dad."
Turns out Sam's parents are walking on eggshells because they sold their first born's soul to the Devil before he was born (they didn't plan to have kids) in return for curing dad, who at the time was seriously ill. At 21, it's time for Sam to give the devil his due, literally, and Satan tells Sam he's now charged with tracking down fugitives from hell, including an arsonist posing as a firefighter.
Dressed impeccably in a suit, the Devil's debonair style contrasts nicely with his kid-hip dialogue.
"Oh, gag," Satan says upon seeing the muscle-bound arsonist flex his muscles. "Look at that tool. Would you capture him already?"
It's also amusing to see Satan get joy out of the simple things in life, like the little jig he does over a plate of chicken fried steak ("I'm so glad I don't have arteries," Satan enthuses).
Harrison is well cast, too. He perfected his "aw, shucks," battered nice-guy routine on "The Loop" and continues to impress in "Reaper" as he's subjected to still more humiliation.
It's possible the procedural element of "Reaper" -- track down one of hell's escapees every week -- will grow tiresome, but if future episodes are as funny and lithe as tonight's premiere, this show will be one hell of a good time.
First Published September 25, 2007 4:00 AM