Diagnosis: Flaccid; Cure: Viagra
Take BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Our heroine is forced to be a slayer. It's her calling. It completely rips into her social life, it even tears her family apart, but ultimately results in a pretty incredible show (at least for the first few seasons). In the pilot (granted, it was probably easier here than for the gals at REAPER, since, you know, they had a movie to cull from), Buffy moves to Sunnydale, thinking she's got the chance to get a fresh start, only to find that Vampires are rampant here. Begrudgingly she uses her powers and saves the day, only to find out that there's a much bigger picture and she can't really turn back now -- but, she's met some pretty incredible people, so, you know, bonus. And, thus begins our series.
With REAPER, Sam finds out that's he's got lemons. Instead of making lemonade, he whines. A lot. About the position he's in. Begrudgingly, he does his work. His friends, Sock especially, shine. They're break out characters because our main dude is acting (is written?) like a secondary character. Sure, you could say that Sock's breaking out because he's the Xander. But, even at her worst moments, Buffy would wax sarcastic, and then she'd kick ass. So, you (and by you I mean me) would root for her. What I'd love to see happen is for Sam to flex his powers. Find something there that's bad ass. He's can still be the awkward geek, but... the great thing about the pilot is that when Sock was in danger, when the chips were down, he bested this bad ass soul, and I was all "fuck yeah!" Since then, we've not seen much of his powers. This guy who took down the firebug? He's not really been seen since.
Then there's Andi. This is the first episode where he's been proactive in the show. Wearing the punkin costume. It was a great moment. Until we actually got to, you know, his wearing the costume. The writers got lazy and had him whine again, "I hate this costume." Cry me a fucking river, soul boy. That was my reaction. If there was a witty quip, or something, you know, better, I'd have loved this -- thing is, it really should be Xander as a soul catcher. Instead, we revert back to Whiny Sam, not the great proactive Sam who stepped in so that Andi wouldn't have to wear it. Though this is a small symptom, it goes to a larger illness. Sam's just not fighting for anything. Things happen to him and he whines about it. Not a character I can love.
The secret calling. What was great about the pilot was that he ended up lying to his mom to make her feel better. He told her his job was done. This was a stroke of brilliance. And the mom felt better. I loved Sam for doing this. As soon as she sort of figures things out he spills the beans? (I believe this was the second episode, btw.) So, this great secret is no longer a secret... except to Andi. And, I'm not exactly sure why Andi's being kept in the dark, since the stakes are: she's really pissed at him because of what he learned from The Devil, or he keeps missing dates with her. Or... there doesn't seem any rhyme or reason for him not telling her. At this point, what's he got to lose? So, we have a not-so-secret secret. Where something like this works is in a show like this, look at...
He's keeping his Top Secret secret from his sister, Captain Awesome, Morgan... everyone. He's got to make up excuses everytime he misses a dinner, or bails on Morgan, or... basically, it's inherent drama. Not something to be shied away from. It also worked in...
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
Buffy kept it from her mom. Hilarity and drama ensued. It just felt natural.
By REAPER taking away the secret? The writers take away both dramatic and comedic potential. And, maybe they chose that route. That's fine. Then keeping Andi in the dark makes absolutely no sense (maybe we'll all laugh about this later when I've watched the rest of the episode and he tells Andi -- but, I suspect that won't happen).
The other thing that worked in BtVS, that could work here, is a larger mystery. They've hinted at it with the contract. And, that's great. But, I'd love to see some way in which Sam could see an out and be working toward that. Okay, so BtVS didn't have that in the first season. She had no out -- that she knew of. So, we had her working toward the greater mystery which was resolved in the season finale. It gave her a goal. And that's what Sam lacks. A goal to work toward. I think if the writers gave him one, they'd find their writing a lot easier, they'd find that they wouldn't have to have him whine, and they'd find the drama AND comedic potential they lost in giving away the secret.
Don't get me wrong, I'm stll going to keep watching this show. I have faith that they'll turn it around. Mainly because of the magic in the pilot. But, I really really hope the writers figure something out. Yes, I understand that there are outside forces (like the Network) who won't let them do XY or Z. But, I also know that there are some pretty talented writers over there who could easily skirt any issue put forth from said network... just like ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT did:
When AD got the note that they needed to have an episode that dealt with family values, it resulted in the fabulous episode, "Pier Pressure." Family lessons, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT-style.
The alternative to this is drafting Ben Edlund. I'm totally going to invent Fantasy Writers' Rooms. Not exactly sure how one would win, week to week. But I bet I fare better in this than I did last week in Fantasy Football.
Hey, at least I'm secure in the knowledge that I could totally take my FF opponent in poker. Look forward to your money, Kimchee.