Last fall, CW’s Reaper received universal critical acclaim and recommended as a “must see” show for the fall season. Now as the season winds down, Reaper finds itself the object of speculation on whether or not it will meet the grim reaper of cancellation in a few weeks.
One of the big issues facing Reaper has been the near-universal critical acclaim didn’t translate into the type of ratings CW expected. Of course, you could say that CW hasn’t done any favors for the show, putting it in a Tuesday time slot up against the mega-hit reality show Dancing With the Stars or the fact that new episodes were shown on Thursdays for a few weeks up against new episodes of Lost and given little, if any promotion. Or you could cite the fact that Reaper returned last Tuesday in its original time slot with new episodes but little or no promotion.
When compared to the promotional push that CW is giving the return of Gossip Girl (which draws lower ratings than Reaper according to a story in the Los Angeles Times), it does appear the writing could be on the wall for this series.
However, those involved with the show aren’t losing hope that Reaper could live to collect souls for a second season.
“They would be foolish not to pick us up,” executive producer Tom Spezialy said.
“I think a lot of networks are struggling with just the changing viewership” of TV, said Michele Fazekas, the executive producer who created Reaper with Tara Butters.
But the biggest issue facing Reaper may be the potential long-term health of the CW. The network, formed two years ago by folding the WB and UPN together, is struggling. Ratings are down 27% this year and while CW does have several tentpole shows, they’re all aging veterans from WB or UPN. The highest rated show on the network is America’s Next Top Model which is showing signs of ratings decline in its recent season.
Of all the networks, it was the CW that took the hardest hit from the recent writer’s strike as well.
And while there is nothing confirmed, some in the industry speculate the CW is in danger of being closed down entirely by its corporate ownership. The network is pursuing viewers that one analyst said are “the hardest to catch and the first to flee repeats, which dominated the media form during the writers strike.”
All of this makes the future of Reaper uncertain.
CW spokesman Paul McGuire called it a “quality show” and added the show’s fate would be revealed on May 13th when CW announces its fall schedule.
So the producers are rushing to finish the season’s last few episodes, not knowing whether their labors should also include planning the season or the series finale. But they say they’re hopeful, in part because “Reaper” is finally hitting its stride after some rocky creative patches early on. They point to last week’s episode, in which a gay couple (who are in fact demons) try to persuade protagonist Sam (Bret Harrison) to join a mutiny against Satan, as an example of the darkly comic tone they seek.
“It certainly took about 10 episodes to get us all on the same page,” said Spezialy. ” The show is such “a blend of black comedy and horror — and just traditional character comedy and some legitimate drama, we hope — that’s it’s hard to find the tone in a language that everyone understands.”
Fazekas added: “We understand what the show is now and what it can be. I think now that we’re in this groove, all of a sudden, in a weird way, instead of narrowing what our prospects are, it just opens them up. ‘Oh, I can see what Season 3 is now, and Season 5.'”
“We can only hope,” Spezialy murmured.
Reaper airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST on the CW