July 6th, 2005

When Polter-Cows Attack!

Cupid? More Like "Shoopid"! *Turns into Camel*

Cupid isn't really shoopid, but I couldn't let that go.

So before Rob Thomas found a blockbuster runaway breakout modest phenomenon hit ratings success in Veronica Mars, he tried out Cupid on ABC. Cupid is the tale of Claire Allen, a psychologist, and the subject of her next book, Trevor Hale, a man who claims to be (or maybe he is!) Cupid, exiled to earth until he can match one hundred couples. Each episode, then, would involve Trevor trying to hook up yet another couple. High concept? Certainly. Doomed to failure? Probably. Romantic comedies are a dime a dozen in the movie world; how could you make it interesting as a television show? Two strangers with very little in common have some hot kisses followed by a wacky misunderstanding resolved by a final act of bravado. That's going to get old real fast, buster.

Except it worked surprisingly, incredibly well.

Somehow, the show never manages to get stale. Each episode feels fresh and original, tackling a new facet of love and relationships. The perils of a romance between two people of different social classes? You got it. A married couple losing that spark? You got it. The anatomy of the pick-up line? You got it. A woman choosing her vibrator over you? You would have gotten it. Even though the show should be formulaic, you never see the formula at work. It would have been quite a wonder to see if it could sustain that verve for a hundred episodes.

It was only twenty minutes into the fourth episode that I decided I was already hooked. Because I realized the show was built on a solid bedrock of Paula Marshall/Jeremy Piven banter. This was Gilmore Girls-speed dialogue before Gilmore Girls existed. Here, let's have some examples:

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Another great thing is that the show doesn't take a side. Claire and Trevor take turns being right and they take turns being wrong. Sometimes, Claire's psychoanalysis of where the relationship is headed is spot-on. Sometimes, Trevor's flaming the fires of passion wins out. And through these little battles, they both learn things about themselves and each other. For every dose of cynicism, there is an equal dose of hope.

Getting back to the dialogue: the writers revel in the language. That's really the best word for it, revel. How else can you describe the compulsion to write a line like this, from "Chapter Six," the second of two unfilmed scripts:

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Plus, it's educational! Witness:

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And don't forget the ever-popular double entendre "I'll be laying odds you'll be laying more than odds." And the gobs and gobs of Greek mythology references. The show is witty as all hell. Also, entertaining.

Plus, check out those guest stars. Lisa Loeb! Christine Taylor! Tiffani Thiessen! The Mayor! The Sprint guy! (No, seriously.)

There were a few things I thought could use some improvement, though. I never felt like Champ, Trevor's roommate, really got his due. He was in the credits, yet he always felt too much like a side character. Yes, he frequently figured into plotlines (almost too conveniently, one might say), but he never seemed to get real focus. Which is a shame, because I liked him. The members of the singles group could have stood to be a little more fleshed out as well.

Another more major issue I had was a somewhat weak sense of arc. I expected there to be more focus on Claire's efforts to, you know, cure Trevor. Find out who he really is. Discover the source of his delusion. Or, of course, come to the conclusion that he really is Cupid omg. Every now and then, the show picks it up, as she tries to write her book, or she goes to another doctor for help, but it never feels like she's actively trying to cure Trevor. It's more like she's humoring him. Which, considering her growing affection for and attachment to him, makes some sense, I guess. But it felt like an important element of the show that seemed to be set up in the pilot was lacking.

But other than that, this was yet another great fucking show that died before its time. Mourn with me, my friends. MOURN. Also, seek it out and watch it.