Review: Cupid 1×1

What's Greek for déjà vu?

Sarah Paulson and Bobby Canavale in Cupid

In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, ABC

I’m getting an eerie sense of déjà vu here. ABC’s newest ‘romantic dramedy’ (yes, that is a genre, apparently), Cupid, is about a man who claims to be the Roman god of love, Cupid, sent to Earth by the other gods to give 100 couples true love before he can return. Sounds kind of original, doesn’t it?

I’ll tell you why I’m getting déjà vu. For one thing, not more than half a year ago, The CW was running Valentine in which Eros/Cupid along with Aphrodite and a bunch of the other Greek gods were out and about trying to bring people together in true love to avoid their own extinction. Okay, that died a death on the grounds of scheduling, not being very good, Jaime Murray, etc, but Cupid really isn’t that different.

But the other big déjà vu score comes from the fact this is a remake. There’s already been a Cupid – a mere 10 years ago – on the same network, with the same writer and the same scripts, just a different cast.

You’ve got to love it, haven’t you?

Trevor Pierce is a larger than life character who insists that he is Cupid, the Roman god of love. He claims that he has been sent to New York City by Zeus to bring 100 romantically challenged couples together before being allowed to return to Mt. Olympus. His persistence eventually lands him in a mental institution.

Three months later, Trevor is found to be harmless to himself and others and is released — but under certain conditions. Placed under the care of psychiatrist and self-help author Dr. Claire McCrae, he must attend her singles group therapy sessions on a regular basis so that she can monitor his progress.

Trevor returns to his rented room upstairs from the struggling Tres Equis Cantina, owned by Felix Araiza and his sister, Lita. In exchange for rent, Trevor becomes a bartender and creates an atmosphere for singles looking for lasting love. His ideas, such as half-price margarita nights and mariachi karaoke duets, could help him bring couples together and ultimately take him closer to the day that he gets to return to Mt. Olympus.

No one believes Trevor’s story, but everyone finds him to be quite charming. Although he possesses a great knowledge of Greek mythology, Claire finds that Trevor constantly interferes and contradicts her when it comes to her pragmatic style of helping lonely hearts find their soul mates. In true love, Claire believes it’s all about friendship and mutual respect; for Trevor, heat and passion conquer all. Only time will tell who will win this battle for love.

Cupid stars Bobby Cannavale (Will & Grace) as Trevor, Sarah Paulson (The Spirit, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) as Claire, Rick Gomez (What About Brian) as Felix and Camille Guaty (Las Vegas) as Lita.

The romantic dramedy was created by Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars), who serves as executive producer/writer, along with executive producers Jennifer Gwartz (Good Behavior, Veronica Mars), Danielle Stokdyk, (Good Behavior, Veronica Mars), Dan Etheridge (Good Behavior, Veronica Mars) and Diane Ruggiero (Dirty Sexy Money, Veronica Mars). Cupid is produced by ABC Studios.

Is it any good?
Well, it’s definitely better than Valentine. But despite the magic that is Rob Thomas (creator of Veronica Mars) being behind it and despite his having – presumably – a decade to work on all the problems with the original series, this episode falls quite flat.

It’s very hard to describe flat. It’s just flat. You know, no bumps, nothing to distinguish one point from another. And that’s Cupid.

If you’ve seen one comedy in which someone tries to match-make a couple before, you’ll know roughly how the plots work here. There’s very little chemistry between Sarah Paulson and Cannavale, and Paulson’s character doesn’t really make much of an impact – she’s the uninteresting, practical naysayer to whatever the slightly more charismatic, sexually harassing Cannavale has to say about the passion of true love. And just as with Valentine, apparently the gods don’t understand modern love quite the way mortals do and they need assistants to show them how to match-make in the 21st century.

In contrast to Valentine though, the mortal couples who need to be matched aren’t complete arses. They are quite likeable (the male half of the couple is Sean Maguire in this pilot episode, allowed to use an Irish accent for once). While there is the usual mix-up with what’s Greek and what’s Roman mythology – with the show veering towards Roman more than Greek – Cupid does at least feel like a vaguely Mediterranean character (via New Jersey), right down to a monologue on the history of baklava, this isn’t one of the all-American gods of Valentine.

Except, of course, we’re not sure if he is what he says he is. Is he Cupid or is he mental? He hasn’t heard of Psyche, his wife, for one thing, but he’s a mean hand at darts and there’s the bead tally of couples he’s matched which manages to change by itself. Whether Thomas will change it to be more definite, something he never did with the original show and had no plans to do, I can’t say, but a little bit of guts on that front might be nice.

It’s agreeable enough, but there’s nothing really beyond its concept (now done to death) that makes it stand out from other shows. Still, with Rob Thomas behind it, maybe it’ll pick up.

Here’s a YouTube trailer and a couple of clips with that Sean Maguire.