Battle of the Geeks: Chuck vs. Reaper

Geek seems to be chic this season on television. Inspired by the success of shows like Lost, Heroes and Battlestar Galactica the networks are creating shows directly at what they see as the “geek market” I assume. Two shows that fit this trend and are premiering this season are NBC’s Chuck and The CW’s Reaper. After viewing the pilots for each you have to wonder if the writers were sharing notes.

First, lets look at Chuck. The show’s title character is the employee of an obvious Best Buy pastiche called Buymore and works for the Nerd Herd (read Geek Squad). He lives with his sister and her husband and of course has a wacky slacker best friend. The “sell” of the series is that his college roomate, who is now a super secret agent, downloads all the information from a database used jointly by the NSA and FBI. Now that he’s gone rogue he’s targeted by both agencies and with his dying strength sends the files to Chuck’s email. Chuck views them (they’re a series of images encoded with the information) and finds he can recall sensitive national security info. Eventually both agencies send assassins but agem Sarah Walker discovers a sweet spot for him and negotiates a way for him to live in the outside world but use his knowledge to help from time to time.

My biggest problem with this show was the lack of genuine geekspeak. The characters are quick to talk about playing video games all night and computer programming, etc. but it comes off as very forced dialogue and very false. The show was created by the creator of The OC who included some geek stuff in that series via the character Seth which also always struck me as disingenious. Its the same here especially with the Nerd Herd. This is an obvious parody of the Geek Squad at Best Buy except for one thing. The real Geek Squad doesn’t know jack about computers. They’re usually teenagers or college students who just get assigned because they know a little more than the average employee. That aspect of the show, the Buy More store made me wonder if Best Buy wasn’t subsidising this series. I also wondered how Chuck’s email account could hold the entire NSA/CIA database and that it was sent so quickly. Definitely not a show that had me jazzed.

Then there’s Reaper, the series produced by Kevin Smith. There’s an extreme Buffy vibe here which I’m sure is intentional. There’s a big fan base for that series and you’d be crazy not to try and rope them in. Reaper focuses on Sam, a young man just turning 21 and working a dead end job at a Home Depot pastiche. He lives with his parents and had a wacky best friend…wait a minute, this sounds familiar. The sell for this series is that before Sam was born his father sold the soul of any future first born son to the Devil in an effort to save his dying wife’s life. His wife was cured and through an accident they had Sam. Now Sam is visited by the Devil and told his job will be to capture souls who have escaped from Hell. So Sam and his best friend suit up and start hunting these devils down.

The show is an obvious take off on Ghostbusters straight down to the jumpsuits worn by Sam and his buddy. I liked this pilot much better than Chuck because the geekspeak seemed a lot more real. They didn’t strain to drop references and it flowed very well. One of my fears is that this first episode was so good because it was the origin story, much like the first Spider-Man film compared to the sequels. There’s something special about the story of a hero’s discovery. However, I think this show could slip into a Monster of the Week scenario becoming increasingly uninteresting. The saving grace of the show, hands down, is Ray Wise as the Devil. Wise played the role of Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks way back in 1990 and its a treat to see him on tv again. He plays the Devil as such a charmer and it totally works. The more of him on the screen the better.

My final verdict after the pilots is Reaper is a tad better than Chuck. I don’t see either show lasting very long because they don’t seem to have anything to pull me in quite yet. It can be argued that the first episode of Heroes was also light on big stuff so I’ll give both shows time to develop and grow.

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~ by Seth on September 27, 2007.

One Response to “Battle of the Geeks: Chuck vs. Reaper”

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