If somebody had asked me to pick one ABC romantic dramedy of the ’90s to remake, I would have chosen Relativity. But nobody did ask me, Jason Katims is busy with Friday Night Lights, and instead ABC gave Rob Thomas (Party Down, Veronica Mars) a second crack at his offbeat series Cupid (tonight, 10 p.m. E.T.), about a man who is either the God of Love or is psychotically deluded into thinking so.
Bobby Cannavale reprises the Jeremy Piven role as “Trevor Pierce,” who believes he has to get 100 mortal couples together in order to return to Mount Olympus (that also being the traditional magic number a series needs to reach the Olympus of syndication). Sarah Paulson (Studio 6o) assumes the Paula Marshall role of Claire, the skeptical psychiatrist appointed to monitor his case.
I watched but was never a huge fan of the original, so I won’t vouch for how well the remake matches up. But the new version does throw some light on how ABC and TV in general have changed in the decade since the show was away.
In 1998, Cupid was a critics’ darling, hailed for its lighthearted, romantic magic realism. That may have doomed it, actually, because it was an unusual show debuting on a network without an overall schedule strong enough to support it. In 2008-09, it’s a much better fit for ABC, and it just may have a better chance. But that comes at the cost of its seeming far less special. By now, the new pilot, though charming enough, is solidly within the ABC Boston Legal / Eli Stone / etc. school of quirky comic-drama.
Which makes the pilot, at least, diverting without being compelling. The two leads have decent rapport (though Cannavale gives Trevor/Cupid a blue-collar spin that’s sometimes at odds with his dialogue), but the dynamic—rascally romantic versus hard-nosed pragmatist—is very familiar by now. (Was it a good idea to debut this and Castle so close together?) And given that the series depends on the appeal of the match-of-the-week, there aren’t any surprising turns in the first, in which Cupid tries to help an Irish troubadour who believes he’s found love at first sight. (Speaking of which, old fans: is that a storyline from the original, or has Thomas seen Once recently?)
That said, Cupid has enough flashes of wit that it’s worth keeping an eye on, although I doubt I’ll make an appointment for it. But it beats reviving Knight Rider, and I’m almost hoping for it to succeed simply to launch a trend of brilliant-but-cancelled remakes. Maybe we can get EZ Streets back! Any candidates for the next big network remake?