The good news is that, according to Variety‘s James Hibberd, The CW has decided to bring back “Reaper” on March 3rd, which is a couple of weeks earlier than originally planned. The bad news is that it’s pretty clear that they’re doing so because they need a sacrificial lamb for the spot on the schedule against “American Idol,” and since they don’t want to keep wasting perfectly good episodes of “90210,” they’ve decided to use a series in which they clearly have limited faith.

Says Hibberd:

To make way for “Reaper,” the CW also advanced its first-season finale date for “Privileged.” The show will conclude Feb. 24, having aired fewer repeats than originally planned. The network has not yet decided whether the drama will return next season. “90210” has been wrestling with “Idol” in recent weeks. Yet it and “Privileged” enjoy the highest percentage of DVR gains among any show on any network.

I don’t want to sound like a pessimist, but while I think we can count on both “90210” and “Privileged” making it back in Fall 2009 (I can’t believe they won’t keep both shows at least into a sophomore season, given the importance of DVR stats in today’s TV), the odds of “Reaper” seeing a third year are already looking slim…and it hasn’t even premiered yet! The CW already hedged their bets with the show’s second year by only giving it a 13-episode commitment, and this maneuver stinks of someone at the network saying, “If it’s a hit, awesome, and if it’s not…well, we didn’t really expect it to be, anyway, so it’s no skin off our nose!”

ADDENDUM: Tyler Labine has been one of my Facebook friends ever since I interviewed him for Bullz-Eye, and when he changed his status this morning to indicate that he was “off to LA to get a new gig,” I immediately responded by asking, “Wow, is there really that little hope for a third season of ‘Reaper’?” He quickly replied, “No, no, just a big hiatus to fill up with gigs. Just a few movie ops. Season 3 is a definite maybe right now. I’ll keep everyone posted.” Oh, okay: if he’s hopeful, then I reckon can find it in my heart to be hopeful as well.