ABC snuck the finale of the "Cupid" remake onto the schedule tonight. If you cared, hopefully you still had a DVR season pass like I did and caught it. (If not, have fun grappling with the ABC.com player.) Some thoughts on the finale, and the remake as a whole, coming up just as soon as I fix a sink...
If, like me, you were a fan of the original "Cupid," then you figured out pretty quickly that "My Fair Masseuse" was a remake of the Piven show's second episode, "The Linguist." This was part of ABC's attempt to keep the budget down, as Rob Thomas got paid less to rewrite his own script than he would have to write a brand-new one. But I give Rob credit for putting in an effort on a job he could have coasted through. Other than the bit about the linguist fixing his freshman roommate's sink -- specifically, the line "I grew up smaht in a paht of town where smaht got yer ass kicked" -- there wasn't much in the way of recycled dialogue, and the relationship took several different twists before ending up in the same place as the original. I'll still take Tim DeKay as my reformed Southie linguist, but I had fun watching this.
In fact, there was probably more recycling going on in the other borrowed plot from the original series, as Claire mistakenly came to believe that Trevor was a college professor who had slept with a student and gone nuts when the girl overdosed on sleeping pills. That's from the original pilot, and was one of the things whose absence from the new pilot was emblematic of one of the fundamental problems with the remake: too much of the Couple of the Week, not enough of Trevor and Claire.
The series had started to course correct on that in the last few episodes in early May. I kept meaning to write about "Left of the Dial," the previous original episode, and never did, but it was the first one that felt like it could have fit in comfortably with the original series.
By then, of course, it was too late. The show was already dead with ABC -- was, I'm guessing, dead within a week or two of its debut, in fact, based on the numbers and whatever was going on between the network and Thomas. (He hints about the problems in his answer to the question about working with Starz in the interview I did with him about "Party Down.") But let's leave the ratings, and the backstage drama, aside, and very quickly ask ourselves why the new "Cupid" didn't work at first, and whether, in a more patient, forgiving world, it might have been able to right itself.
Problem #1: Not enough Trevor and Claire. I have to assume this was a network push -- that someone at ABC felt the show's chief appeal was the matchmaking, and not the banter. But however well-executed those stories might have been (and they weren't always that great), it left viewers with no real hook to watch from week to week. The balance shifted a bit in the final episodes, so maybe that's a fight Thomas could have eventually won, had the ratings been better.
Problem #2: Not enough Trevor/Claire chemistry. This is a tougher problem to fix. Bobby Cannavale and Sarah Paulson were both fine on their own (though Paulson at times struggled to elevate Claire above her usual brittle WASP type), but the spark unfortunately wasn't there between them. You can't fake that.
Problem #3: Too much audience hand-holding. Again, I'm guessing this was from ABC, based on how so many of their other shows roll, with the hateful Please Laugh Now music and the way characters on all their series need to constantly monologue about their motivation for doing anything. I never felt like the romances had a chance to breathe, as we had to spend half of each storyline with the characters delivering exposition to Trevor. Part of this, I think, can also be pinned on Thomas and the other writers, who for some reason chose to build most of the episodes around two people with an established history who hadn't quite fallen in love yet. (It always felt like watching a play that began with the second act.)
I was probably harder on a couple of the episodes than I should have been, just based on my frustration with it not being as perfect as the original show. But "Cupid" 2.0 was, at best, flawed but sometimes entertaining, and I don't know that it could have ever risen above the chemistry problem. But I feel better about having watched it at the end than I suspected I would at the beginning.
What did everybody else think?