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September 2, 2015

Cupid: Pilot (series premiere)

by Mike Moody, posted Apr 1st 2009 1:00PM
Bobby Cannavale Cupid ABC(S01E01) Call me a hopeless romantic, but I was charmed by the series premiere of Cupid 2.0.

ABC's original Cupid from 10 years ago, also headed up by executive producer Rob Thomas, was a smart, playful and quirky hour of television that looked and felt like nothing else on the air at the time. ABC's promos for Thomas' remake made this new show look silly and the quirkiness look forced. Thankfully, that's not the case – for the most part.

Bobby Cannavale plays Trevor (played by Jeremy Piven in the original), a New York City bartender who claims he's Cupid, the god of romantic love. Expelled from Olympus, he's given the task of bringing one hundred couples together here on Earth. Trevor goes about his plan under the watchful eye of Sarah Paulson's Dr. Claire McCrae (Claire Allen in the original), a psychiatrist and best-selling self-help book author assigned to monitor Trevor's release from a psychiatric hospital.

The opening ten minutes was essentially a note-for-note riff on the original show's pilot. The rest of the ep never strayed too far from the '90s version either. It seems like Thomas and ABC are confident that a 10-year-old concept will play just fine in 2009, and they might be right. It's hard to tell judging only by the premiere. The new Cupid isn't the near-revelation the original was when it premiered back in 1998, but the cast was great, even some of the guest stars were memorable, and it was a fun, breezy hour of scripted TV (just what viewers might be craving after Dancing With the Stars).

Cannavale is an inspired choice for Trevor. The charismatic character has a lot in common with his role as an overzealous coffee vendor in 2003's The Station Agent. Cannavale displays less of Piven's acerbic edge and more childlike awe and infectious enthusiasm as Trevor, but it still works. Thankfully, Paulson's practical shrink – who, of course, doesn't believe in love at first sight – is nowhere near the killjoy I thought she was going to be. (I was expecting Monica Potter in Trust Me levels of awful there!) The supporting cast, including Camille Guaty and the always awesome Rick "Endless Mike" Gomez, showed a lot of potential, but we didn't get to hang with them very much.

Instead, we spent a lot of time with the "couple of the week," Dave and Madelyn (Sean Maguire and Marguerite Moreau), who even Trevor couldn't see were destined to fall in love.

Like in the original's pilot, Trevor used his charm and influence to help Dave, an illegal Irish immigrant, track down Holly, a girl he spent twenty minutes with once and is convinced is the love of his life. Things took a pleasant detour when Madelyn, a New York Post reporter, met Dave and offered to write a story about his quest. The two spent a lot of time together and eventually started to fall in love. Things were complicated when Holly showed up and Dave got deported. But the couple got a happy ending, of course, with Madelyn boldly going to Ireland to be with her "uncool" love.

This subplot could've been sketched out on a napkin in five minutes, but Moreau's performance (why isn't she a movie star yet?) helped make it worth watching.

There was some development in Trevor and Claire's relationship – looks like things turn out best when their personal philosophies about love and life meet in the middle – something I hope the show explores more than I think it will. The success of Cupid will mostly hinge on the two leads and the strength of the guest stars and the weekly relationship plot.

It's pretty light stuff, but there's potential for some real depth, and even darkness, here. This is a story about a man who, despite his sunny disposition, might turn out to be a disturbed individual suppressing an emotional trauma. In the original, we never found out if Piven's character was actually Cupid. With any luck ABC will allow Thomas, who turned a potentially one-note premise into an addictive multi-layered drama with Veronica Mars, the time and creative control to explore many sides of his characters and the show's themes. Love aint always pretty, and I'm willing to bet that there's more to Cupid 2.0 than the fun, diverting romantic comedy we got with this premiere.

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My wife and I loved it, which means I fully expect ABC to cancel it without notice like they have done to so many of our favorite shows in the past year (Men in Trees, Eli Stone, Pushing Daisies, Life On Mars, and Kyle XY over on ABC Family, just off the top of my head). ABC needs to figure out what it wants instead of greenlighting all these great shows, only to pull them too soon when they don't pull in the numbers of Grey's Anatomy.

April 04 2009 at 2:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I loved the original; didn't love the remake so much but will stick with it for a while just to see how it goes. Really not expecting it to last very long, however (ABC probably won't have the patience).

April 02 2009 at 9:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have several thoughts on the show, but I'll limit my comments to what I thought was obvious:

The note for note riff of the opening was boring for me, but essential to all new viewers. The imp of Piven was a rip on the imp that was Bruce Willis in Moonlighting and the imp that Cannavale played is just a rip on that, and there's not a thing wrong with it. Willis played it to a very large bankroll, and we're seeing Piven take it to whichever mercury fueled adventure he can take his impish portrayal to... So, yes, this is a Cannavale vehicle to either soar or flail.

As to the unlikeable Paulson, she's doing her part as the spoilsport. She's the jug of cold water to throw on the burning fire, and the foil that gets foiled. This is the character that helped sink the last version of this show, and if the show is a repeat, I expect things will travel in the same direction... (Those who repeat the past and expect change... )

Note to the producers: Have the character hit by a bus. You can bring her back somehow, but you don't have to keep that character in such a Debbie Downer mood for the length of the show.

Listen, there will always be room for that special "Love, American Style" type of show. It won't always get great ratings, but if you play your cards right, you can certainly make a few seasons out of the right setup.

April 02 2009 at 12:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Christopher.. funny you should say Bobby Cannavale looked huge. While watching last night, I remarked that he looked so much smaller than he did in The Station Agent. Big or small, he's cute as a button.

Sarah Paulson, however, I can do without. Didn't care for her in Studio 60 either. She just looks like she's "acting." She apparently does a lot of stage work and I think it shows (ie, you need to be "broad" on a stage).

Good show, in any case.

April 01 2009 at 10:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i liked it! will watch... :)

April 01 2009 at 9:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought Cupid was fun and fluffy, and I'm with you Mike - I would love to see it develop into a fun-yet-thoughtful and multi-layered show.

April 01 2009 at 5:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

what a fun and well produced show but it aint going to last with the ratings it's getting...

April 01 2009 at 1:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Johnzo's comment


Was it me or was Cupid (Bobby C.) huge. I mean he's Jason Segal huge, look out for sasquatch.

April 01 2009 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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