The notion of reviving a series that crashed and burned a decade ago is the most interesting aspect of “Cupid,” which pretty slavishly recreates that earlier Jeremy Piven-Paula Marshall pairing with Bobby Cannavale and Sarah Paulson. At its core, the series is a romantic procedural, with a mental patient (and perhaps the not-so-mythical god of love) trying to pair 100 couples — a more significant number, syndication-wise, back in 1998 — so he can return to Olympus. A sprightly tone doesn’t fully compensate for its shortcomings, but this dramedy is a better fit with ABC’s lineup now than it was then.
After a big gesture that involves New York’s New Year’s Eve ball-drop, Cannavale’s self-proclaimed Cupid is introduced leading fellow mental patients in a chorus of “All You Need is Love,” which is pretty funny. Written off as a loon, he’s foisted upon a prim psychiatrist, Claire (Paulson), who’s initially reluctant to sponsor his return to the outside world, but eventually gets drawn into his sphere.
If memory serves, Cannavale’s Cupid (who goes by the name Trevor) is less impish than Piven was in the role, although he does describe Mt. Olympus as a “nonstop clothing-optional party.” Actually, that sounds like the basis for a more interesting show, albeit on a different channel.
With the players set — including a brother and sister (Rick Gomez, Camille Guaty) who operate a local bar and have sort of adopted Trevor — the matchmaking begins. The premiere focuses on a love-struck Irishman (Sean Maguire) trying to locate an American girl he briefly met in a pub. In the process, Trevor brings him to Claire’s singles group, and the subsequent turns are wholly predictable, if not entirely unpleasant.
Creator Rob Thomas doubtless relished the opportunity to give a deceased project a second life — a strategy CBS employed, without improving the outcome, on the comedy “Grapevine.”
Yet “Cupid” remains a rather wispy premise, with this second go-round bookending other similarly themed premises, such as NBC’s “Miss Match,” which failed, too — and in that case also featured a female lead who couldn’t quite follow her own romantic advice. Despite the question of whether Trevor can thaw Claire’s hardened heart and scientific mind, the template is really that of an anthology, focusing on the guest stars to essentially create a new 43-minute romantic comedy each week.
Setting love aside to contemplate crass commercialism, this new (sort of) series could benefit from making its debut at a time when ABC is pursuing a more cohesive strategy, predicated on launching light female-oriented fare by using “Dancing With the Stars” as a springboard. So while the show seems unlikely to fulfill its protagonist’s goal of 100 true-love connections, at least nobody can accuse the network of looking for ratings love in all the wrong places.