"Botched Makeover" was the final episode of "Cupid" to be produced, and as Rob Thomas mentions below, the cast and crew actually found out they'd been canceled while they were still working on it. It never aired on ABC, though it popped up in several foreign markets, which explains its YouTube-ability. (I've also seen a bootleg version of an Israeli telecast, complete with Hebrew subtitles.)
Like I was saying in the review for "The Children's Hour," this clearly wasn't intended as a series finale -- Trevor doesn't even make a match in this one -- but there are certain elements that make it a less-than-painful closing note. Specifically, I like that the final episode climaxes with Trevor and Claire swing-dancing. If, as Claire said many episodes before, she knows Trevor has a libido because she's seen him dance, then this is the closest they would ever come to sex, given the professional (doctors don't date patients) and mythological (sex with a mortal = no more immortality) barriers.
Claire spends a lot of time in this episode talking about the culture reverting to classic romantic standards -- "Dancing cheek to cheek, dressing up," etc. -- and the main plot of the hour is in itself a throwback. It's the famous, "Why, without your glasses, you're beautiful!!!!" story that you'd often see in films from the '30s through the early '60s.
Our not-so-plain Jane is Kristy Holbrook, a mousy writer's assistant on the ever-popular show-within-the-show "Sunset and Vaughn." Kristy's played by Laura Leighton, who was just coming off her stint as slutty Sydney on "Melrose Place." The wardrobe and makeup people did what they could to create Kristy's bag lady look, but it was about as convincing as that episode of "Gilligan's Island" where a homely woman stopped by the island and got a makeover that turned her into the spitting image of Ginger, you know?
That said, there are some interesting things going on in her story. Usually, the show would establish one guy and one girl and create an obstacle that Trevor would have to overcome to get them together. Here, Kristy has a couple of potential suitors: Josh, a junior writer on "Sunset and Vaughn" who encourages Kristy to move up the ladder to actually write for the show, and Tom, a handsome cad whom Claire throws out of the singles group after realizing he's just using it to find desperate women who will sleep with him. (Also, unbeknownst to her, he has a bet with a friend about scoring three girls in three weeks, which feels almost quaint a decade later. I imagine the same script today would have Tom trying to score three in three nights or something.)
So Tom is set up as the bastard that Trevor needs to save Kristy from, and Josh seems like the sweet guy she'll cease to notice once she's made over to resemble Laura Leighton, but this being "Cupid," things are more complicated than that. Tom begins to genuinely like Kristy, and not just because of how she looks (it's the "She's All That" plot, for you young'uns), while Josh tries to take credit for Kristy's script idea as his own. In the end, Kristy rightly kicks both guys to the curb, and even tones down the more boob-tastic aspects of her makeover while finding newfound confidence in both her appearance and ability to write. Trevor doesn't get his match, but he does help her.
While all of that is going on in the anthological half of the episode, Claire and Champ team up to try to take Trevor down a peg in a swing dance competition (yes, I know "Swingers" was two years earlier, but sometimes it takes TV a while to catch up to trends), and Trevor hustles his way into a guest-starring role on the increasingly "NYPD Blue"-esque "Sunset and Vaughn."
I've talked in the past about how Champ was a character the show rarely knew what to do with (he's the first thing I'd want to "improve" with the remake), but he and Claire make a nice combination in their rare bursts of shared screen time. As the two non-insane/godly members of the cast, they both have to suffer the walking disruption that is Trevor, and it's nice to see them bond over it in the end, even though Champ winds up bailing on the contest so the writers can put Piven and Marshall on the dance floor together.
And now it's time for the final installment of Rob Remembers, where "Cupid" creator Rob Thomas takes a break from rewriting the pilot script for the "Cupid" remake to offer a look behind the scenes at "Botched Makeover":
The Cupid cast learned that we'd been cancelled as they were shooting the big dance scene during "Botched Makeover." We also learned at the time that the episode we were shooting would never be released. To their credit, everyone sucked it up and did quality work, though the set was a pretty miserable place to be in the aftermath.A few other thoughts on "Botched Makeover":
(The episode did end up airing in several foreign markets, however.)
Perhaps the most common way of becoming a television writer is to first get hired as an assistant on a television show. It's a prime stepping stone. Assistants talk to the agents assistants who will become agents some day. They learn the process from the inside. They can usually convince producers on the show to read their spec scripts. A couple days after ABC announced the Cupid pilot had been ordered, I received a letter through my old Texas address from a woman named Vanessa Taylor who wanted to be my assistant. I'd never had an assistant, and, frankly, didn't even realize I would be afforded one. Nevertheless, I admired the tenacity, and I hired her.
Vanessa co-wrote "Botched Make-over" with me, and she did a fantastic job. So fantastic, that I then hired her on my next project, SNOOPS -- which, perhaps, turned out to be a very mixed blessing. She very quickly climbed the ranks, and eventually co-created the very well-received WB show JACK AND BOBBY.
A sidenote -- the fictional cop show within the show, SUNSET AND VAUGHN, is a show title that I've always been fond of in a "can we think of a campy title to a fictional cop show." It reappeared in an episode of VERONICA MARS when we had a close-up of a Tivo recorded programs screen. Also, in a nod to the original notion that Champ wouldn't accept any roles expressly written for Black actors, his character has the surname "Cohen." That's the very inside joke that I am, perhaps, the only person who finds amusing.
-As the Internet's leading "NYPD Blue" junkie, I was particularly amused to see all the "Blue" touches in "Sunset and Vaughn," whether it was Claire's love of seeing Sunset's naked butt every week or the jittery, hard-boiled interrogation scenes with junkies.
-Love the entire sequence where the post-makeover Kristy enters the singles group, from Claire forcibly hurling Trevor into the next room to Trevor responding to her accusation that he did everything she warned him not to with "Not true. I did not open that Tabasco lubricant."
-One specific change in the remake is that it'll be set in Los Angeles instead of Chicago. While it's a shame to lose the unique architecture and character of the windy city, if there's a Champ character in the new show and he's still an actor, at least we won't have to deal with the contrivance of an LA-set cop show being written and produced out of a Chicago studio.
Up next: b'dee, b'dee, that's all, folks! Back when I started this idea, the plan was to add a second show at some point, most likely "Sports Night," but I wound up having so many other things on my plate even during the strike that there wasn't time for it. Now that the strike's over and primetime TV is only a few weeks away from a return, there's no point in starting up again, so we'll revisit the TV Club idea in the summer. (If you want to see the reviews I did last summer of "Freaks and Geeks," click here.)
What did everybody else think? And, after going through all these episodes with me, do you think the world is ready for a "Cupid" remake? Casting will obviously be crucial (it's hard to think of a better Trevor than Jeremy Piven, or better chemistry than Piven and Paula Marshall had), but what tweaks, if any, would you make to the formula the second time around?