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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2008-2009 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot - or in this new post-strike/straight-to-series world, reading the pilot script. We'll start with the ones that were actually filmed and move on to the others in the coming weeks.
For our final two weeks, we're going to shift gears a little and look at the scripts for 10 high-concept projects in the works for midseason. All of them have just started or recently completed production so it may be some time before we hear when and if they make the cut.
As always a lot can change from what's on the page right now but we couldn't resist taking a peek.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: To read our review of the final product, click here.]
(written by Rob Thomas; 65 pages)
The network's description: "Like any big city, Los Angeles has its share of characters. But the newest one isn't like the rest. For starters, his goal in life is to help people fall in love, which isn't such a bad thing. But he says he must create 100 happily-ever-afters in order to return to his home�Mount Olympus. Because he's Cupid, the ancient Roman god of love. Duh. He claims being punished by the other Gods for the modern world's sorry state of love, and was sent to Earth without his famed bow and arrow, to rediscover what really makes love work. As fate would have it, Cupid, sometimes known as Trevor Hale, is under the care of famous psychologist and self-help author Dr. Claire Allen. Even though Claire disagrees with Trevor's methods, she can't argue with the sentiment, since she too is dedicated to helping lonely hearts find their soul mates. But these two experts in love couldn't be more different: he believes love blooms fast and carnal and passionate, while she thinks it grows slowly, moderately and sensibly. While he busies himself making matches, she endeavors to figure out who Trevor really is. Is he a man who's losing his mind after the loss of his one true love? Is he really crazy? Or (gulp) is he really Cupid? From writer-creator Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars) comes a re-imagining of his 1998 cult favorite series of the same name. Bobby Cannavale stars in this romantic-comedy procedural that will match up a new loving couple each week, though romance may not always bloom quite where we expect it to. This warm, witty series is a charming reminder that even though true love may be madness... it's the only thing keeping us sane."
What did they leave out: Jeremy Piven and Paula Marshall starred in the original 1998-99 version, which aired on Saturday nights at 10:00/9:00c (yikes!) before moving to Thursdays at 9:00/8:00c for its final four broadcasts.
The plot in a nutshell: Meet Cupid 2.0 (Bobby Cannavale). Dressed in a "Virginia is for Lovers" T-shirt, he's helping Dave (yet to be cast) pull off a grand, romantic gesture - using spray-painted tarps to make the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles read "Holly?" It seems that Dave, while working at a pub in Ireland, became smitten with an American girl who stopped to ask for directions. Now, armed with only her first name and her destination city, Dave has taken on a Quixotic quest to find Holly. It's only natural then that the God of Love is aiding him. Unfortunately, the cops don't take vandalism lightly - even if it's in the name of love. Meet Dr. Claire Allen 2.0 (Sarah Paulson). She runs the "Dating for Life" seminar every Tuesday and Friday night at the Border's on Sunset. Today's hot topic: some idiot went and changed the Hollywood sign to read "Holly?" The room - filled with an array of characters (which Thomas amusingly names things like "Guy's Guy," "Obligatory Brassy Redhead" and "Just-Off-The-Bus Ingenue") - seems split as to whether whoever did it is crazy or romantic beyond belief. Claire's take: why would this Holly person want to be with someone who has no respect for the law? In any case, one of Claire's colleagues calls her with the news that the Cupid in question is being held for observation at Cedars-Sinai and they'd like her take on him. You see, Cupid genuinely thinks he is the Cupid, banished from Olympus ("Oh, at my expulsion, they yammered on about relearning my craft, the screwed up state of love and romance. Frankly, I had trouble taking the whole thing seriously," he notes.) until he can unite 100 couples - sans his bow and arrows.
And despite her best efforts (from drugs to mythology quizzes), Claire can't seem to punch any holes in his "delusion" - that is until she mentions Psyche, a mortal whom Cupid fell in love with and married, despite the gods' objections. Cupid scoffs that he never heard of her and notes "You're saying Cupid was married?" A deflated Cupid - who now offers up his name as Trevor Hale - then is released with the caveat he must remain under Claire's care. Unfortunately for her, Cupid/Trevor just played everyone in order to get out. Now with her professional reputation - and his freedom - on the line, the pair must find a way to co-exist, no easy feat considering their opposite opinions about love and romance. Making matters worse - Trevor has turned his attention back to Dave's quest and the two find themselves in a war over convincing him how to proceed. Along the way we also learn that Trevor has a job at Tres Equis, a former adult movie theater that's been converted to a Mexican-themed bar, where he also rents a room from its owner Felix Arroyo (Rick Gomez) and his sister Lita (Camille Guaty); while Claire has hired a P.I. to find out who Trevor really is and has a father who's been battling a much more tragic form of mental illness. In the end, Trevor and Claire discover that Dave's path involves a happy medium between their two ideologies. (And yes, Trevor's behind-the-back dart bull's-eye and the pool hall counter are back too.)
What works/What doesn't: The good news is the new "Cupid" is almost exactly like the old one. The bad news is the new "Cupid" is almost exactly like the old one. And I say both these things as someone who holds the original show near and dear to my TV-watching heart. In other words, part of me is thrilled beyond belief that what I just read is up to said standards while another part of me is horrified at the prospect of people other than Piven and Marshall saying the words. Not because of some bias on part - but because it literally feels and plays like a lost episode from the original show, making the comparison almost impossible to ignore (that is of course if you are aware of the old show - it has been 10 years after all). I was actually hoping "Cupid" would take the "Battlestar Galactica" route and completely reinvent itself - after all the dating world has changed quite a bit in the past decade. Between MySpace, Match.com and the decline in marriage rates, singlehood is a much different thing now than it was in 1998. So if there were any show to having something to say about those changes - it would "Cupid." (It would also have made the casting changes easier to digest.)
As it is though, this new "Cupid" is very much in the 1998 mold (none of the previous concepts are even mentioned) - as I said, it feels like a lost episode of the original show (minus the change in locale of course). That's not to say it isn't a wonderful script (Claire: "Trevor, you don't have believers." Trevor: "Is that so? Then why is there a Temple of Eros down on Melrose?" Claire: "They sell trashy lingerie." Trevor: "Of course they do! It�s one of the sacraments.") or it doesn't tickle my fanboy bones (the sketch of Psyche that Claire shows Trevor resembles her), it just isn't in a 2008 mold. Everything said here has been said before by Piven and Marshall, again making the comparison impossible to ignore. Conversely, I'll take more "Cupid" over no "Cupid" any day - not to mention more Rob Thomas over no Rob Thomas. He has a genuine talent for create a living breathing world - in this case a slightly romanticized version of Los Angeles - with amusingly chirpy characters. He has the is-he-or-isn't-he dichotomy of Trevor down pat, from the humor of it to the pathos. Now it's just a question of how Cannavale and Paulson fit into his vision.
The bottom line: The idea of having an hour of television devoted to not cops or dead bodies or mysterious illnesses - but to a weekly debate about what love is - is what drew me to the original "Cupid." I'm thrilled beyond belief about the prospect of having that debate come back to television - even if part of me is horrified (and legitimately so as detailed above) it's not Piven and Marshall.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: To read our review of the final product, click here.]