Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Strike Survival TV Club: Cupid, "The Children's Hour"

One week (and several hours) later than normal, it's time to head into the homestretch of our "Cupid" club, with spoilers for the penultimate episode, "The Children's Hour," coming up just as soon as I put some batteries down my pants...

"The Children's Hour" was the final episode of "Cupid" to air before then-ABC chiefs Jamie Tarses (the inspiration for the Amanda Peet character on "Studio 60") and Stu Bloomberg (the man with the greatest soul patch to ever occupy a network executive suite) pulled the plug. While neither this episode nor the unaired "Botched Makeover" were written as a series finale, there are parts of each that unintentionally work as final notes. No, Trevor never comes close to the 100 couple barrier, nor do we find out whether he's man or god, nor does the show ever get the chance to have Trevor and Claire confront their attraction directly, but in the lemonade from lemons category, "Children's Hour" offers us Trevor's final match and Claire celebrating Cupid's Day, while "Botched Makeover" has... well, why don't we wait until Friday, or else we won't have much to talk about with the final episode.

Just as Halloween is a money in the bank holiday for shows with supernatural or horror themes, Valentine's Day could have been the gift that kept on giving for a hypothetical world where "Cupid" ran for 7 or 8 seasons. We've already seen in previous episodes (notably "Meat Market") that Trevor hates the popular conception of Cupid as the cherubic baby with the bow and arrow, and this episode gives him an opportunity to go full-on Charlie Brown (or, if you prefer, Frank Costanza) with the complaints about the commercialization of "his" holiday.

But Trevor being Trevor, he gets so caught up in the way he thinks things should work that he doesn't pay attention to how they're actually working. He doesn't recognize that the concept of Cupid's Day -- a Festivus-like alterna-holiday for singles to celebrate on Feb. 14 -- would sound really depressing to someone without a partner on that day. (At least if you stay home and eat cookies and watch a stupid movie, it's easier to forget that it's Valentine's Day and you're single than if you attend an event where that's the whole point.)

And when, after a number of fits and starts, he finally gets our Couple of the Week -- feisty single mom Stephanie (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen back before she dropped the Amber) and persistent caregiver Luther (Ben Bode) -- in the back of a limo together and they start bonding over their respective familial responsibilities, Trevor can't see this as a good thing for their relationship and keeps trying to change the subject to fun, sexy time.

Still, in the end, Trevor turns out to not be willfully blind about everything. The Cupid's Day party -- and his idea of using the fantasy sketches Claire had the singles group write -- produces at least one match (maybe not a button-mover, but still), and he has the brainstorm to put Stephanie's kids and Luther's aunt together to look after each other while the grown-ups get to party together.

I like that the meeting between the three dependents doesn't suggest a miracle cure -- the aunt is still a pain in the ass and the kids seem afraid of her, even though she manages to convince the boy to stop carrying around his toy bulldozer -- but rather a starting point for something that could eventually work. While the magic of love moments on "Cupid" (the Trevor side) are fun, I also appreciate that the show was willing to deal with the less glamorous parts of romance and relationships (the Claire side).

It's not the strongest episode of the 15, but I like the Couple, Trevor has lots of funny lines ("The things she does with verbs, practically keeps you awake the entire time") and other bits of business (Claire calling him like a dog and him responding like a monkey), and, of course it deals with our hero's own personal holiday.

And now it's time for Rob Remembers, where "Cupid" creator (past and, maybe, future) Rob Thomas offers some behind-the-scenes insight into each episode (or, in this case, an amusing episode-related anecdote):
A few years ago, my then-girlfriend/now-wife and I went to a wedding of a friend's here in Los Angeles. Afterwards, we were waiting for the valet to bring us my car, and I noticed a woman who looked very familiar. I glanced at her a couple of times trying to place her. I finally came to the conclusion that she had played a role in Cupid, but I couldn't remember which role.

The woman in question noticed me, and I could tell she was trying to place me as well. I finally said, "Excuse me, were you in an episode of Cupid?"

She answered that she indeed had been and introduced herself as Tiffany Amber Thiessen. To this day, this is one of my wife's favorite anecdotes. She swears I'm one of the few men in Los Angeles who would've been unable to recognize her. She also believes it was the first time Ms. Thiessen has been asked about her Cupd credit first.

A sidenote about the episode. I loved how great the snow in Chicago looked on film. It made our show unique. Working outside in it was difficult, but when we shot outside in a Chicago winter, you knew we weren't an L.A. show faking it.
Some other thoughts on "The Children's Hour":
  • Remember how Rob admitted several episodes back that he wrote the "Trevor and Claire mock 'Dawson's Creek'" scene as petty and juvenile revenge for leaving that show on bad terms? Well, he gets in another dig here with the condescending store clerk that Stephanie tells off in front of a smitten Luther. The clerk's name? James Van Der Brook, which is a hop and a skip but not even a jump away from James Van Der Beek.
  • A few episodes back, I asked how the potential remake would deal with gay couples and whether Trevor would get "credit" for same-sex matches. As we learn here from his conversation with Jaclyn -- in which she congratulates him on fixing up two men that no one else knew were gay -- at least Trevor believes that Jupiter and company have no problems with guy love between two guys. (As Trevor notes later, "By Jove, I think she's got it! I know Jove personally, and he is bi.")
  • It's always a tough line to walk with cute kid characters, but I think the writing of Mac and Maggie manages to fall on the funny side rather than the annoying one. In particular, I like the kid who plays Mac's delivery of the line about the early developed kid in phys ed who offered 10 bucks for the picture of his mom.
  • Maybe the funniest, and most completely random, bit of Trevor business in the episode is his explanation for why Luther should lick his teeth before seeing Stephanie. Comes from nowhere, goes on forever, and impossible to properly describe if you haven't seen it, but damned amusing.
  • Champ is once again largely appearing in his own show, but at least this one is both brief and thematically tied to the main story, as Trevor talks him into reconciling with the teenaged son of an ex-girlfriend.
Coming up on Friday: the end, with the unaired but easily YouTube-able "Botched Makeover," in which Laura Leighton tries to play frumpy, Trevor and Claire make a wager, and Rob gets to make fun of "NYPD Blue" for a while. You can see it here, here, here, here and here.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I always enjoyed this one - the scene with all the guys from the singles group being interviewed by the twins cracks me up, even if I don't believe that even those guys would be dumb enough to be quite that "real" with the kids of a woman they'd like to date rather than putting on a show.

Paul Adelstein's "I'd be happy to go out with this picture" line is delivered perfectly as well.

Interesting trivia for this episode - the young actress who played Maggie (the daughter) had previously played Professor Laskey's daughter on Saved by the Bell the College Years, and her babysitter on that show (who entered into a game of Mommy/Daddy/Abby) was none other than Kelly Kapowski, aka Tiffani-Amber Thiessen.

Anonymous said...

Re: Do the Olympians recognize the love that dare not speak it´s name:
I rewatched some of my precious home-made DVD´s of Cupid last night and in the episode with Harry Groener there is this exchange:
Clare: "Where are you going to be"?
Trevor: "...a gay bath house. Somewhere where people are looking for love."

I think we have a verdict

afoglia said...

A good, solid episode. Not very memorable, but a well-executed regular episode of "Cupid."

You've hit all the major points. I have nothing to say, but just encouragement and appreciation for the TV Club.

Bobman said...

For some reason, I really cracked up at Trevor's throwaway line to Champ :

"Cereal, the breakfast of Champ."

I'm retarded.

Anonymous said...

I really loved this episode's take on the single-mom-dating situation. Of course, it's downright cliche'd that men don't want to date a woman with kids, no matter how beautiful she is, but they put an interesting twist on it. Instead they find a very nice guy for her who is not the least bit put off by her children ... and she can't tolerate his family obligation! And the idea that the obnoxious old aunt would be good with children was pretty well set up in the episode: after all, the reason Luther is so dedicated to her is because the aunt raised him, and she must have done a pretty good job because Luther is a good guy.

I have a friend who has worked in book stores and video stores, and the opening scene with the elderly lady cracks me up, because it is so very true-to-life. People come into those kinds of stores all the time with the most absurdly vague descriptions of what they want, and expect the clerk to know exactly what they're talking about. The clerk's behavior is, of course, inappropriate, but it borders on fantasy-fulfillment for people who have been in that job. And the mother's treatment of the clerk is priceless. Put you on the mailing list for NAMBLA... giggle...

LoopyChew said...

The kids in this episode were hilarious. Something about their delivery just made the episode. I couldn't stop laughing after "He was the first man we scared off!", it was so wonderfully stated. The scene where the daughter was rejecting the boy was also well-acted if written a bit anviliciously.

I'm gonna miss this show, but I'm looking forward to seeing how the new one compares!

Anonymous said...

Can someone please tell me what he said was the point of him bringing the coffee each day?