Meet Sam Oliver. He's a college drop-out working at the Work Bench with his two best friends, Ben and Sock, and the woman who he's had a crush on since high school, Andi. Then he turns twenty-one and learns that his parents sold his soul to the Devil before he was born. Now he has to work for the Devil as a bounty hunter for escaped souls.One could call it a comedic spiritual successor to Brimstone.The show ran its second season in May 2009, and was then cancelled for good. There are talks to continue the series as a comic book.
This series provides examples of:
Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Sam, Ben and Sock once had to search the sewers for an escaped soul made of green nuclear-waste goo. The sewers were fairly dank and smelly, but they were easily big enough for three people to walk through.
Affably Evil: The Devil seems to treat Sam like a son, giving him advice on dating, although he can be mean, too.
All Girls Want Bad Boys: The show plays with this trope with Nina. She's a demon, so as she says herself for one thing she can't help but be a little attracted to evil, and for another 'bad boys' are what she's used to by default. She's initially attracted to Ben because of his caring nature, but is put off a little when he gets too clingy. She even lampshades the trope, saying bad boys "treat you like crap, but at least it's exciting". She eventually decides to go back to Ben, but kisses Sam after being attracted to the dark side she thinks he has from being the Devil's son. This later comes back when Nina seems attracted to Morgan, but this turns out to be a ruse so she can lure Morgan to a group of demons so she can kill him.
Ambulance Chaser: One of the villains was one who returned from the dead with leech powers. Bloodsucking attorney indeed.
Anti Anti Christ: The presumed spawn of Satan is fairly depressed to learn that it's his apparent destiny to end the world. He takes comfort from the fact that he's not really all that good at anything, so he'll probably suck at that, too. Subverted in that Sam is not the only son of the Devil. Satan's been around a long time, and has a lot of kids. And he's disappointed in each and every one of them.
Devil: Did you know I used to get the people that ate shrimp? Just shrimp. Do you have any idea how unsatisfying that is?
Ascended Demon: Had a group of demons who were trying to overthrow Lucifer through being nice. One of them apparently ascended to angelhood after death, though the finale indicates that angels can be pretty ruthless too.
Asshole Victim: Sam has to save his old Sadist Teacher from an escaped soul wanting to kill him in revenge, and it would have been better had they just let him get killed first. Fortunately he got his comeuppance in the end.
Badass Gay: Tony in his demon form. Seriously, he is super badass.
Girl runs away.
Tony: They always do that. And it always hurts
Badass Normal: Sam's friends do not have superpowers, but the three of them are able to capture souls with ease with their know how from the Work Bench.
Batman Gambit - The Devil, in "Rebellion," is revealed to have set Sam, Sock, and Ben in their new apartment next door to two demons who happen to be members of a demonic underground dedicated to fighting the Devil with goodness. Because of Sam's special relationship with the Devil, the demons devise a plan to trap the Devil and kill him - which is just what the Devil wants. He kills all the demons in the rebellion (except for one), because the goodness plan would have eventually worked in about 400 years. What's more - The Devil left a series of clues that he easily could have avoided. Giving them gifts meant for the escaped soul that Sam is chasing, and putting his own name on the lease are the big ones. This allows Ben to figure out what's going on exactly one moment too late to stop it.
Beware the Nice Ones: The Devil seems like a pretty relaxed, happy, friendly guy. Then Sam saves a random guy's soul from him, and the Devil congratulates him on doing so... right before the Devil collapses several giant shelves on top of Sam.
Sam: (Terrified) I thought you said you weren't angry!
The Devil: (Smiling) I'm not. This is me...disappointed. You should see me angry.
Bi the Way: The Devil. Hey, at least he swings, baby.
Averted elsewhere. Sam's Prius is heavily featured thanks to Toyota paying a promotional consideration, and the first episode features Sam using, what else, a Dirt Devil as a vessel. They also usually don't bother to cover logos on the wide shots when Sam and company are stealing massive amounts of merchandise yet again.
Book Dumb: While Sam, Ben, and Sock might not be particularly smart about other things, some of their plans to capture souls are really elaborate and complicated. Ben is slightly smarter than Sam, they are both much smarter than Sock. That being said, none of them are intellectuals.
Bounty Hunter: Sam works as a bounty hunter for the Devil: instead of escaped criminals, he catches escaped souls.
California Doubling: The show was filmed in Canada— Stargate City —and while the series does a good job of showcasing a general location, a couple parts of the show suggest that it might be taking place in Southern California.
The license plates are Washington, and there's numerous references to Seattle. At one point someone mentions The Space Needle, and John talks about putting up his Seahawks posters.
Call Back: In the two episodes "Unseen" and "Cancun", Sam asks the Devil to give him a straight answer and just tell him the truth. In both cases, Sam asks about the Devil's children. In "Unseen" he's asking about Cady, in "Cancun" he's asking about himself.
The Call Back also shows how the Devil's relationship with Sam has changed. In the earlier episode "Unseen", the Devil flippantly replies that he'll tell the truth. In "Cancun", the Devil decides to be honest and tells Sam that he's probably going to lie.
Cannot Spit It Out: A lot of problems come from Sam's inability to tell Andi about his problem with the devil.
Chess with Death: Sam plays coin toss with the Devil. He loses. He plays again and is going to win...but an angel CRUSHES HIS HAND. Cause the forces of good don't want him to win. While it's all part of their plan, they really didn't need to be such assholes about it.
The Chosen One: Sam is special even for a Reaper - Satan regularly talks to him. He might even be the Devil's son.
He's special even as one of the devil's children. It is implied God had a plan for him, but we never find out what it is.
Series 2 implies the reason the Devil favours Sam to be his eventual successor over his other children, such as the more obviously evil, Morgan, is that while their personalities are in line with his own and willingly obey him, they don't have any drive to complete the tasks he assigns them. Sam on the other hand, despite his protests, is the only one who actually gets the job done.
Christianity is Catholic: The show tries to make its theological underpinnings as ambiguous as possible, but whenever we get exposition (especially from Ben) the result is clearly Catholic.
Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: Alan Townsend escapes from his deal with the devil by winning a poker game. The condition of his release is that he is forbidden to sin again or he goes directly back to Hell. The problem with this is that he's a gambling addict and gambling is a sin. He eventually ends up back in Hell when the devil arranges for his plane to be grounded in Las Vegas.
Continuity Creep: Started off as a Soul of the Week show, but about halfway through season one it started with the demon rebellion arc and examining the thorny questions of who Sam's dad is most likely candidate is The Devil himself.
Cursed with Awesome: Subverted. At first it seems like the devil owning Sam's soul looks like the best thing that's ever happened to him: he gets a cool job as a hunter of escaped souls, powers specially designed for each soul so he shouldn't have too much trouble with them, and the big guy's inside advice on how to get laid. However, the devil also occasionally screws with Sam's life just for the hell of it, and he can't say anything about it to the girl he really loves since it would jeopardize her ownership of her own soul.
Devil but No God: God is mentioned several times but never appears or intervenes until the end of the series, when an angelic Steve sabotages Sam's attempt to get out of his contract with the Devil. This implies that God actually wants Sam to keep working for the Devil, which might make this a Justified Trope.
Devil in Plain Sight: The Devil, appropriately (or strangely) enough, who apparently sets off no alarm bells when he's interacting with humans other than Sam.
Diabolus ex Machina: In the season 2 finale, there is a perfectly logical opportunity to end the series — Sam will win the contest, he and Andi go free, and the devil is sad. Presumably in order to make way for Season 3, the Diabolus is employed: picking up on some rather vague hanging plot threads, an angel comes out of nowhere and ruins everything by breaking Sam's hand. And then the show got canceled.
Sock: Yes, Steve and Tony smell terrific, and yeah, they've got great taste in beer, but They. Are. *oh-so-short pause* Demons.note They're also gay...
Steve and Tony initially assume Sam and the others stopped hanging out with them because they're gay, until Sam mentions it's because they're demons.
Steve: The homophobia, I understand. I don't agree with it, but I understand. But fallen angels cursed to walk the Earth for all eternity—and that freaks you out?!
Steve: Just explain what it is that worries you.
Sam: Well, have you guys ever...eaten anyone?
Tony: ...that is rude.
Steve: That is rude, and uncalled for, and we are not going to answer that.
Disproportionate Retribution: A bunch of rebellious demons set up a human sacrifice so that Sam can get out of his deal with the Devil. When Sam protests, saying he won't send an innocent soul to Hell in his place, Tony contends that the guy isn't innocent, he's a drug dealer who tried to sell him weed in the park.
Tony: It's a gateway drug!
Divine Parentage: Cady might be the devil's daughter. And Sam might be the devil's son.
Genre Savvy: Alan Townsend, the only escaped soul from Hell smart enough to realise that the Devil can't touch him on consecrated ground, so he immediately takes a job as a gravedigger. He later attempts to move to the Vatican and fails.
Don't forget Jack King, or the episode title "Greg, Schmeg".
God Is Evil: Downplayed: There's nothing to indicate that God is "evil" per se, but he does come off as something of a jackass. (e.g. having his angel break Sam's hand to keep him bound to The Devil, punishing the Devil for his rebellion by making it impossible for him to eat ice cream, etc.)
Sam: I need to ask you something, but I need you to promise me you'll tell me the truth. Devil: Sam, I like you. So I'm going to be honest: I'm probably going to lie to you.
Improbable Weapon User - For each job, Sam gets a new vessel to use to capture the escaped soul. They range from the reasonable (e.g. a taser, a whip, a scythe) to the bizarre (e.g. a remote-control toy car, a dove, or bubble solution).
Jerkass - The Devil loves screwing with Sam, and it becomes worse when Morgan is in the picture. Morgan fits this as well, although he doesn't realize it.
Just Friends - Andi wants to remain just friends with Sam, even when he wants more until she decides to be his girlfriend.
Kryptonite Factor - The Devil seems nearly omnipotent but has some weaknesses that even humans can exploit. Most notably, he cannot enter a circle without an invitation (he has to enter through corners) nor can he see or hear anything that goes on inside. He can also be killed by the sword of the Archangel Michael, though he has that safely hidden away. He is also weakened when people, humans or demons, do good deeds. It's stated that if they had not been killed, Steve's group of rebel demons would have successfully defeated the Devil in 400 years or so by doing good deeds. For a being that existed long before Earth was created, that probably seemed like a very immediate threat.
Like A Bad Ass Out Of Hell: Played straight and subverted. Although all the souls are escapees from Hell, implying a certain amount of badass-ness, the fact that Hell is apparently extremely overcrowded means that pretty much anyone can get out if they set their mind to it.
Limited Wardrobe: Given their level of income, the main cast has maybe three outfits apiece. Sock is the most noticeable in this regard because one of his shirts is prominently stained.
Lock and Load Montage: Starting with the first episode when Sam and Sock suit up to face off against Schmecker, and to varying degrees afterward...always using stuff that happens to be on sale in their place of work.
Loophole Abuse: In The Cop, the detective sells his soul for catching five high profile killers. Satan then turns around and gives him four and the fifth ends up the detective shooting himself since he failed to specify what he meant by catch thoroughly enough. Satan admits it was a little sneaky.
Meaningful Name: One of the escaped souls is named Jack King, who uses sperm banks to trick women into carrying his children.
Morton's Fork - At the end of the first season, Tony tests if Sam is the son of the Devil by dropping a laundry machine on him. If Sam dies, it proves he's human (but still dead). If Sam uses his demonic powers to save himself, Tony will execute his plan to kill Sam.
Narcissist: This is The Devil's weakness. The secret to beating him in a contest is to bring a mirror to the competition ground with you, because The Devil is incapable of not looking at his own reflection.
When The Devil confronts Gladys the DMV Demon about allowing souls to escape from hell, her face says it all.
Alannote a gambling addict who will go to Hell if he sins a single time, when he realizes that the plane he's in is stopping over in Las Vegas en route to the Vatican, and he's been given $100 in poker chips. And the Devil is right behind him.
Omniscient Morality License - Steve breaks Sam's hand to prevent him from winning his rematch with the Devil, citing an undefined greater good and orders from "upstairs".
One-Hour Work Week - The characters do have jobs at the Work Bench (and its one of the major settings), but the boss is so terribly incompetent that they can come to work, clock in, and just leave. Later, Sam's girlfriend Andi takes over the job and, being in on the Reaper secret, lets them go whenever they need to.
The premise owes more than a bit to Ghost Rider, but there's a lot of smaller nods as well, most blatantly to Ghostbusters in the first and third episodes.
One episode deals with a soul of an assassin named Lťon. The assassin is named after the actual assassin of President Mckinley, Leon Czolgosz, making this more of a historical in-joke.
In one second-season episode, The Devil mentions having contracted an advertising agency to improve Hell's image. This mirrors the plot of The Hades Business, a short story by Terry Pratchett, which was the first thing Pratchett ever published. (The story is collected in A Blink of the Screen.)
Soul-Sucking Retail Job: Sam and his friends spend as much time dealing with the incompetent management and obnoxious customers of The Work Bench as they do chasing down escaped damned souls. It's a toss-up which job is worse.
Small Name, Big Ego - Ted Gallagher. Especially funny when the trope was still called Ted Baxter.
There Is Only One Bed: Deliberately invoked by Sock when he and everybody went to the mining town to find the soul to get with Kristen. It works.
Title Drop - Sam is referred to as a "bounty hunter" for most of the series. Only once is he ever called a "Reaper."
Toad Licking - One the escapees from Hell was a stoner whose preferred method of getting high was licking toads. Fittingly, his demonic power was having a prehensile, Overly-Long Tongue.
Tonight Someone Dies: The season one finale was heavily promoted as, "Someone Will Die". However, it seems that this death is John, buried alive and presumed dead by the characters. In the last few minutes Linda seems to have dug the still-alive man out of the ground. In a later episode, it was relieved that the commercials were technically correct. John is no longer alive. Apparently Exact Words matter when making a Deal with the Devil.
Too Dumb to Live - Especially in the early episodes, Sam frequently decides it's a good idea to tell the Prince of Darkness off to his face. Then again, if you could do this and get away with it (as Sam obviously can), wouldn't you?
He is also frequently shocked and offended that Satan, known as the Father of Lies, would lie to him.
Not to mention how frequently Sam trusts Sock, of all people, with aspects of his job.
Sam's parents are the worst of the whole bunch for thinking they could trick the DEVIL. You didn't honestly expect the Prince of Lies to play fair did you?
Sam announcing to the escaped souls that he's a bounty hunter. Because, you know, element of surprise is overrated.
Alan Townsend, if only for the fact that his plan to fly to Vatican City to be protected from The Devil clearly didn't factor in the several hours that The Devil would have to get to him while he was on the plane.
The demon resistance under Steve also ran a meeting to talk about their attempts to do good and avoid evil. Sample day: Did some recycling, put quarters in a stranger's parking meter, almost ate a child.
Unwitting Pawn: Sam, constantly. He plays a major role in undoing the demon rebellion. As the series progresses, though, he becomes more savvy and sometimes comes out ahead.
Villains Blend In Better: In one episode, the next escaped-from-hell soul that the protagonist Sam must capture is a thirteenth-century Mongolian warrior. Sam's employer urges him to hurry lest the Mongolian adapt to our world well enough to start conquering it. It never goes that far, but after the heroes lose the Mongolian for several days, he's wearing an expensive tailored suit by the time they catch up with him. Subverted in that he's still a roaring, raving and destructive brute attacking Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese restaurants. Doubly subverted when the heroes attempt to repeat a previously successful trick and scare the Mongolian with the ringing of a cell phone. The Mongolian grins and shows them his brand-new Bluetooth head-set.
Walking Wasteland: Cady. She's mostly a nice girl, though there have been hints of Yandere tendencies, but flowers and small animals die in her presence. She may or may not be the devil's daughter.
Weapons That Suck: In the first episode, Sam is given a demonic dirt devil vacuum in order to recapture a soul that escaped Hell.
Woman Scorned: Dumping an ordinary woman is bad enough. Dumping a demoness who's got a crush on you and is really, really trying to overcome her murderous cannibalistic urges is criminally and suicidally insane!
Word of God: Sam is actually the son of John and Linda, and not the Devil. John was a demon, and sold the soul of his first born son, in order to become a human. This is why he didn't actually die at the end of season 1. All of this would have been explained in season 3.