By: Aleks Chan
CUPID (a remake of the 1998 dramedy starring Jeremy Piven and Paula Marshall) opens with what will likely be many more Grand Gestures: Bobby Cannavale, playing the titular God of Love, helps a smitten Irishman rework the lights as the ball drops in Times Square to read as a giant sign displaying: “Holly I’m Here.” Said Irishman, in a stroke of luck, met who he felt was the love of his life when an American tourist (Holly) spends 20 minutes in his pub – so he dropped everything, and flew across the pond to find her. Altogether now: Oy.
Now here’s another: Cupid – under the guise of Trevor Pierce – has been sentenced to matching 100 couples in Manhattan, without his bow and arrows, before he can resume his life atop Mount Olympus. And after getting arrested for his stunt with the lightbulbs, is put under the care of Dr. Claire McCrae (Sara Paulson, rebounding from STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP) a psychiatrist who – surprise! – deals in the matters of pragmatic approaches to love.
It fits so perfectly into ABC’s current programming block: it’s like a romantic procedural, setting itself up to match two new guest stars together every week, with Trevor and Claire batting banter as they build their (synthetic) attraction to each other. Cannavale and Paulson, in their own respects and in their own scenes, are perfectly fine, committed actors. He can be effusive, yet never overbearing; she has the trickier job of getting a lame character, but pulls it off with a breadth of sanity. It’s just when they’re together that it really drags, because the two of them produce about as much chemistry as two glasses of water.
The lack of charisma is strange considering its creator, Rob Thomas, who no doubt must be thrilled to see the very show ABC pulled after one season live again, seems to not have brought what he’s learned since then: where’s the rapport between the characters, the sense of spirit and wit in the romantic foils’ sexually-charged exchanges? And how is it that Paulson’s Claire is the dullest, prickliest woman he’s ever written – did he extol all of his feminine gumption on Kristen Bell?
Whatever the case, there’s a good chance CUPID might be around long enough to develop itself beyond a weekly romantic comedy setup: it’s been paired with the DANCING WITH THE STARS performance show, a cushy ratings sweetspot that might give it the longevity it needs to realign its trajectory.
Cupid debuts tonight at 10 p.m. est on ABC