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Heavenly Heart Attack: An Advance Review of ABC's "Cupid"

A lot of what goes right with love can be attributed to Cupid (a lot of what goes wrong can be too). After all, as the myth tells us, it's his arrows that strike the hearts of true lovers and unites them. He's a cosmic matchmaker with a penchant for archery, really.

It's no surprise then that so many writers have taken inspiration from the Cupid/Eros mythology and sought to use the deity as the springboard for all sorts of romantic-related mischief.

Rob Thomas is one such writer. He had a short-lived series entitled Cupid on ABC in 1998 which starred Jeremy Piven as Trevor Hale, a man claiming to be the ancient deity stranded on Earth until he can complete his penance, bringing 100 couples together, and Paula Marshall as Claire Allen, a psychologist who is assigned to keep an eye on Trevor. The series was canceled after just one season. And, for all accounts and purposes, that seemed to be the end of Thomas' Cupid. Until now.

ABC is once again launching Cupid with Rob Thomas at the helm. Tonight, in fact. This time around, the possible-love god (now called Trevor Pierce) is played by Bobby Cannavale (Cold Case), taking over for the dynamic Piven, while Sarah Paulson (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) replaces Marshall as Claire. And this Cupid shifts the action from Chicago to New York (though the original pilot script set the action in Los Angeles), where the series is shot.

Other than the casting changes, the premise remains the same: Cannavale's Trevor either is the ancient god of love... or he's a crazy man with delusions of grandeur whose belief in his deityhood manage to bring people together. But the one heart he can't melt seems to be that of his psychologist, Claire McCrae (Paulson) who is a relationship expert and self-help author who seems to lack anything resembling love in her life. Once again, Trevor must unite 100 couples in true love before he can return to Mount Olympus.

Rounding out the cast are Rick Gomez (What About Brian) and Camile Guaty (Prison Break), who play siblings Felix and Lita, owners of Tres Equis Cantina, who rent Trevor a room above the bar. Romantic hijinx ensue.

Or they should, anyway. In the hands of Piven and Marshall, Trevor and Claire had an easy sexual tension that thrived on the screwball banter between them. Here, Cannavale and Paulson don't charm as they should. Their Trevor and Claire seem about as fun as a heart attack and have virtually no chemistry together whatsoever. Which makes the series rather painful to watch as they engage in the sort of staged cookie-cutter cuteness that seems far more clever on the page than it does on the screen.

It's hard to care about Cannavale's Trevor, especially as he seems so woefully miscast in the first place. Whereas Piven brought a manic energy to the role, Cannavale seems like he's going through the motions, not a man who might be Cupid but perhaps one who's seen a few too many cartoon Cupids over the years. Claire meanwhile has no place overseeing a singles support group or really giving out any advice about love or relationships; she seems to frigid and icy-cold dull that it's hard to imagine even the real Cupid being able to pierce her shield with his bow and arrow.

Which is a real problem, especially when fans of the original series--which aired not all that long ago--still have images of a very specific Trevor and Claire in their minds, images that are only a decade old. Complicating things is a glacial pacing that left me losing interest in what was going on screen and I found myself wondering what I needed at the grocery store several times while watching. (Also missing besides Trevor's proof that he's Eros? Any of the romantic whimsy of the original series.)

I'm not sure why ABC would seek to redo a series that failed the first time around but, given the series' troubled production, I think ABC realized halfway through shooting the seven episodes that comprise Cupid's season that they too had been under some sort of divine enchantment when they attempted this Grand Experiment. Prognosis: this Cupid's got a troubled ticker.

Cupid premieres tonight at 10 pm ET/PT on ABC.


K said…
I had forgotten about Cupid until you reminded me! Of all the shows from my past, I can't understand why this one is coming back (and yet 90210 and Melrose are back too...). Side note: your encyclopedic TV knowledge is well... encyclopedic. Wow!
Asta said…
I was a fan of the original - I still have a few episodes on tape - and have found the promos for the new incarnation to be uninspiring. That's when I see promos. 'Cupid' seems to have gotten less then half the publicity push 'Castle' has. I was wondering if I should even bother giving it a try tonight and after reading your review, I'll pass.
Anonymous said…
Didn't watch the original and won't be watching this one. Sounds god awful.
Barrett said…
I am a big Rob Thomas fan but this sounds pretty lackluster. I would have much rather had more seasons of the wonderful and witty Veronica Mars than this stupid cupid!!!
TxGowan said…
I loved the original series and that's why I don't think I can watch this newer version. I'm just way too biased to even give it a shot. I echo the sentiment that Cannavale seems woefully miscast.

Oh well. I'm not getting much more than a chuckle from Party Down, either.

Has Thomas stretched himself too thin?

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