The Devil in Me

I'm never busier than when I'm unemployed, never happier than when figuring out how to solve a problem...and I never watch so much crap on TV than when I'm ill.

I've seen a lot of crap this last week. Currently I'm ploughing through both seasons of The Collector. The plot is that the devil buys people's souls for ten years of whatever they want, after which he takes them to hell. The devil gives them what they want by shifting their misfortune onto someone close to them, but they can evade hell if they undo this damage before the contract ends.

He employs a few damned people to collect contract-signers for him and one, our hero, decides to help those who've signed the contract gain "redemption" this way. The devil lets him do it because he likes playing games.

There's exactly one interesting thing about this setup - the hero fails about half the time. There's subplots about a cocaine addict prostitute the hero helps, a journalist who's after him and her creepy autistic son - who may or may not be the angel Gabriel - but the interesting (to me) thing about The Collector is that you can't be sure the bad guy - the ultimate bad guy - will be defeated at the end of the hour.

So that's what I do when I'm ill. I catch up on five year old trash TV culture, and wind up enjoying it probably for the wrong reasons.


Having now seen all the first two seasons, I've one or two more thoughts.

Eroswings asked how the story ends. The answers are:
(1) Only the first two of the three seasons are available to me on TVOD, so I don't know how it ends, and
(2) There might be more seasons in the pipeline after season three, so no one knows how it might end.

However, from what I've seen, the second season doesn't so much reach a conclusion as...dissolve. The journalist gets taken to hell, her sister replaces her as the third lead before disappearing offscreen, and the angelic/autistic son become simultaneously all-seeing and irrelevant.

The last three episodes are, in order:
* A mish-mash of some of the sillier Jack-the-Ripper theories - The lodger, Walter Sickert, and the prostitute killing other prostitutes.
* A time-travel predestination paradox story about the holocaust
* A flashback to the collector's first case - in which we learn that it's forgivable to kill defenceless women if it's to save your soul, but not to touch up children, apparently.

So we don't get any conclusions or progression towards resolutions - we get the series breaking up into sidelines. Oh, and we get the hero's pining after his lost love examined and revisited long beyond the point of tedium.

One thing to notice in the credits list is that nearly all the names are Hungarian. Evidently porn wasn't the only thing to come cheaply out of Eastern Europe in the zeros - we got film crews, nonspeaking extras and rustic medieval settings too.

There are a few recurring themes. Addiction and relapse (to drugs, power, alcohol), single motherhood (the journalist and several one-episode characters), and miracle disease cures (AIDS, cancer, the plague). I'm not sure these constitute an arc - more a series of tropes.

The biggest theme of all is of course that of the Monkey's Paw - that the devil gives you exactly what you ask for, in ways that negate what you hoped for. A comic-book fan wishes for superpowers, which wind up killing the people he's trying to save. A woman wishes to prove that she's as good as any man, and so becomes a series of men. A UFO-watcher gets proof that aliens exist, when he goes to hell and meets alien souls.

I think the thing which appealed to me - which kept me watching in spite of the dodgy dialogue and hammy acting - was the way the show kept unflinchingly to it's premises. There's no deus ex machina (literal or figurative), and no sudden reversals in the final five minutes that magically make everything all right.

God is invisible or absent, unable or unwilling to make the world less horrible. The devil always tells the absolute truth - but never the complete truth. There's no easy distinction between good and bad people. The rules are arbitrary and unfair but unbreakable - irrespective of what may be just.

A serial killer gets off scot-free by following the rules of his satanic contract to the letter, a career criminal similarly avoids hell, and a yogi sees his followers suicide when they take his philosophy of peace literally.

Anyway, I've no wish to see any of it again, but I'm glad to have been laid up in bed long enough to see it once. Now can anyone explain to me why all the American sci-fi/fantasy I've enjoyed for the last decade...has actually been Canadian?


  1. The Devil's in you!?! You need an exorcism! Find a young priest and get him to tie you down and squirt fluids on you. If he works you over just right, you'll be speaking in tongues and go into spasms.

    P.S. I remember the Collector, but I never found out how it ended. I liked it.

  2. Eros appears to have put a lot of thought into this.

    I'd go with his advice.

  3. You've only just discovered The Collector? I watched it when it was first aired and was greatly disappointed when it was cancelled.

  4. Eroswings:

    "Oh vicar, won't you sprinkle me with your holy water."

    "On your knees boy, and I'll minister to your needs."

    Erm, anyway, check out the update.


    I've been spanked by a priest - and I don't think he even realised why he surrounded himself with boys and was obsessed with Sodom and Gomorrah.

    And that's quite as far as I want to go in relations with the priesthood.


    Harlequin? Haven't see you for...I'm not sure how many years.

    I bet the old newsgroups is exactly the same as it was.

  5. Because it's a lot cheaper to shoot in Vancouver than it is in LA.

  6. When it comes to disturbing and weird but fascinating entertainment, no one does it better than Canadians! For example: Celine Dion!