Has anyone noticed that Reaper (Tuesday, 7 p.m.) is one of the best TV shows, like, ever? The CW doesn't get much attention for its drama/devil/comedy (hey, a new genre: dramadevildy!). But Reaper is as good as anything on the air - not only hilarious, but sometimes even poignant. What's the matter, Emmy Awards, afraid you'll look undignified honoring a show about a nerdy home-improvement-store clerk forced to capture souls who've escaped from eternal damnation?
This week's episode is as funny as...well, hell. Sam (Bret Harrison) gets a new assignment from the Devil (Ray Wise), who's as shark-like as a Wall Street investment banker (though, on balance, probably not as evil). A boxer has escaped from the Inferno, determined to win the championship that eluded him after taking a bribe. To send him back where he came from, our cowering hero will have to get in the ring with this fighting machine and clock him on the chin.
Sam is cheered on by his co-worker Sock (Tyler Labine), a husky slacker/hipster who gives Jack Black a run for his money. Meanwhile, co-worker Ben (Rick Gonzalez), with his notoriously bad taste in women, takes up with a scaly demon who assumes the human form of a bubbly blond. She's the classic problematic girlfriend, and Ben wonders if she's worth the potential bloodbath. During one of their endless processing sessions, he earnestly asks, "You're not dating me to kill Sam, right?"
I would sell my soul to the Devil to ensure that Reaper gets picked up for 2009-10.
Will Ferrell: You're Welcome, America: A Final Night With George W. Bush
Saturday, 8 pm (HBO)
HBO offers a live presentation of Will Ferrell's one-man Broadway comedy, a last go-round for the George W. Bush impersonation that Ferrell perfected on Saturday Night Live. It was one of the greatest dumb acts of all time, right up there with Jerry Lewis and Curly of the Three Stooges. (I'm referring, of course, not to Ferrell, but to Bush's presidency.)
Sunday, 7 pm (NBC)
This new series turns the Bible's David and Goliath story into a contemporary political fantasy. David the Shepherd becomes David Shepherd (Chris Egan), a humble farm boy whose act of courage endears him to a gruff king (Ian McShane).
NBC seems determined to misjudge the national mood. In hard times, we don't want tense, somber dramas that take themselves too seriously, like Kings or last month's XIII. We want to laugh along with clever escapist fare like Reaper (see above). I'd be delighted if the underdog Reaper slew the big-budget Kings in this week's ratings. Now that would be a David and Goliath story worth telling.
Death on a Factory Farm
Monday, 9 pm (HBO)
This documentary sends an undercover operative to work on a hog farm in central Ohio. With his shaky hidden camera, he documents the most awful animal abuse, which I would describe here if I had a stronger stomach. Suffice it to say that the filmed evidence lands the farm owners in court - a rare case of animal-abuse laws being enforced in an industrial setting.
Death on a Factory Farm makes a powerful statement about the way we treat our future food. We all owe our ham sandwiches an apology.
Bridget's Sexiest Beaches
Thursday, 9 pm (Travel Channel)
The Travel Channel is working overtime to drum up excitement about Bridget Marquardt's new travelogue. Bridget is one of the interchangeable bubbleheads from the E!/Playboy series The Girls Next Door, but the Travel Channel has convinced itself that she's a unique TV personality. "Bridget brings each experience to life as only she can!" promises an excitable narrator. "The most thrilling, intoxicating beaches in the world, all with a twist that's completely Bridget!"
As far as I can tell, the only "twist" in Bridget's Sexiest Beaches is the drama over which color bikini she'll wear next. Other than that, Bridget is a brain-dead blowup sex doll who can find banality in the most exotic landscape. On a stroll through Croatia's Golden Horn Beach, she astutely observes, "We are literally walking around the outer edge of the horn! It's amazing!" She becomes even more insightful when she reaches the tip of the horn. "It doesn't get any better than this. We are ON THE TIP OF GOLDEN HORN BEACH!"
No, there's not much to keep your attention here besides the aforementioned bikini changes. Can somebody wake me when the pink one comes round again?