"Cupid" still a bad date at ABC

Mon Mar 30, 2009 9:54pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - For some, love takes time -- and a willingness to overlook faults, like a penchant for karaoke. For others, love is a passionate, instant connection that drives the besotted to do things like change all the light bulbs at the ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve.

Both approaches are in evidence in ABC's midseason replacement "Cupid," which premieres on Tuesday at 10 p.m. The title omits the word "new" because creator Rob Thomas and ABC have been down this road before -- for 15 episodes in 1998, with Jeremy Piven as the lead. Was there really a huge clamor to retell the story of a man who thinks he's a god of love and the disapproving female doctor who thinks he's a harmless loony?

Apparently so, but this arrow doesn't quite hit the bull's-eye. Bobby Cannavale does make for a cuddly Cupid (a.k.a. Trevor), who walks a line between being charming and a galoot, while Sara Paulson's Dr. Claire McCrae skulks around throwing water on his ambitions to match up 100 couples. We know she's prickly because of her pursed lips, and we're supposed to sympathize with her sense and sensibility, but she's rather rigid and two-dimensional.

The real problem with the pilot is that the most interesting characters emerge out of the unexpected geek romance between an Irish busker and the reporter who interviews him. Those guest actors -- Sean Maguire and Marguerite Moreau -- are so darling, it's hard to believe the show isn't focusing on them, particularly since their reflected glow leaves Cannavale and Paulson looking like cardboard framing devices.

Thomas' script gives a wet kiss to his candy-colored, hyper-cute New York, too. But to make this concept work longer than 15 episodes, he's created a conundrum: How can you make viewers invest in a weekly romance they'll never hear about again post-credits while waiting around for the leads to figure out they're made for each other? The balance is off, but there is still a sweetness to the show that makes it worth checking out. After all, who can resist a series that recognizes the power of a Beatles sing-along to bring everyone together in the end?

(Editing by Dean Goodman at Reuters)

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