The second time around: Chuck and Reaper

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Pilot episodes are kind of like first dates: They're all about making the best possible initial impression. It's only with the second encounter that you start to get a sense of what a person (or show) will be like over time, and whether or not you really want to spend time with them (or it). And, with their second episodes (which aired Monday and Tuesday respectively), NBC's Chuck and the CW's Reaper ensured that we'll be calling, er, watching them again for sure. This week, the two shows, which have eerily similar premises (directionless twentysomething who works at a big-box retailer discovers he has a secret destiny that forces him to do crazy, dangerous shit he's totally unprepared for) took the important step of differentiating themselves from each other. On Chuck, our hero's coworkers are oblivious to his secret life as a spy, whereas on Reaper, two of them know that the protagonist is Satan's unwilling bounty hunter and help him recapture runaway sinners. Chuck derives much of its humor from head-butting between the hero's handlers (one's a CIA agent, the other's with the NSA), while Reaper brings the funny via Ray Wise's inspired performance as Satan and ace work by Rick Gonzales (who deserves a very bright future) and Tyler Labine (much less of a Jack Black copycat than I feared) as the less-than-bright sidekicks of Sam (Bret Harrison). Now, the most important thing that the shows have in common is that both are obviously being made by people who are having the time of their lives working on them. Stay tuned for another Second Time Around report later this week, once we've had the chance to digest the sophomore outings of Bionic Woman, Private Practice and Dirty Sexy Money.

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