Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cupid, "The Tommy Brown Affair": The mediocre escape

Quick spoilers for last night's "Cupid" coming up just as soon as I do the moonwalk...

I could go on for a while about all of the things wrong with this episode (starting with the way that neither guest star was believable as either suave jewel thief or hardened parole officer), and with the series in general (too much emphasis on the guests over Trevor/Claire, too much exposition, too much music), but what's the point? The show's doomed. It won't be back next season. ABC's just running out the string with it at this point, and depending on how the ratings were last night, I wouldn't be stunned to see the show get pulled for the rest of sweeps. (The best thing it has going for it is that "The Unusuals" also did badly when placed here, so maybe ABC thinks the timeslot's damaged goods till next season.) At this point, picking apart all of the remake's flaws feels like beating a dying horse.

That said, I do want to note that Bobby Cannavale continues to be really engaging as Trevor, and that he and Sarah Paulson have absolutely zero chemistry together -- and that, more than any of the problems with the structure of each episode, is why the show doesn't work.

"The Tommy Brown Affair" was the first episode since the pilot to give us a real concentrated dose of the two leads together, and unfortunately there's no there there -- no romantic spark, no comic spark, no sense that these two are a good team on any level. So where Paula Marshall and Paulson are playing basically the same character, with the same take on their most eccentric patient, Marshall's Claire came across as enjoying the give and take even when Trevor was being irritating, where Paulson's Claire just seems annoyed with him, all the time. And that's no fun.

I'm going to play out the string along with the show, out of nostalgia for the original(*), and out of hope that we might get some decent banter between now and the end of the run. But given how great the original show was, it's frustrating that the remake is so obviously deserving of its short-lived fate.

(*) Speaking of nostalgia, as several readers pointed out to me last week, Claire's assistant Josie is played by Anna Chlumsky, most famous as the underage lead from "My Girl," but who also appeared in "Meat Market," one of the funniest episodes of the original series.

What did everybody else think?


LoopyChew said...

I get the feeling that a lot of the problems are network-caused, for some reason. These ARE the same people who did Veronica Mars, right? Not just Rob Thomas, but Gwartz/Stokdyk, but Kretchmer, Ruggiero, et al.

These are the same people who managed to convey incredible amounts of subtlety in Veronica Mars, who trusted the viewers to piece things together, to make things not so freakin' obvious.

I cannot possibly imagine them creating a show which comes about this short of using can-can dancers and a marching band saying "CLAIRE ACTUALLY DOES LIKE TREVOR!" without some sort of third-party influence. Either they took a lot of the happy drugs in the meanwhile, or we can blame the network. Given your post (and yes, I've noticed it too) about how ABC shows love having "it's goofy!" music playing as a cue, I think ABC is having troubles believing its audience has any amount of audience, and thus asked them to telegraph these kinds of points with a sledgehammer.

That being said, I still liked this episode. It's just that this iteration is more of a guilty pleasure, whereas the original series is something I will publicly declare affection for. Cannavale still makes for an excellent Cupid, and I could watch him goof around all day. Felix is no Champ Terrace, but he works as the deadpan sidekick, as opposed to his no-black-actor counterpart's eternally-irritated deliveries. Lita is easy on the eyes. And Claire...

Well, Sarah Paulson is no Paula Marshall, at least not as directed here. I loved her in Down With Love (here, I'm turning in my guy license!) and know she can do rom-com, but here...blech.

Todd said...

The Chlum was also aces as Liz Lemler in season one of 30 Rock. I keep waiting for her to stumble into a lead series role or something, since I want to read the literally dozens of newspaper profiles of how she went from child star to restaurant reviewer to ... TV personality.

LoopyChew said...

its audience has any amount of audience

I mean, has any amount of INTELLIGENCE. I think I was just hoist by my own petard.

Unknown said...

I was just bored. Ex-con and his parole officer? Her throwing away her life for this dude after one lay? Bitch, please. Claire's "wah, I got robbed, now need big strong man to walk me home" got old fast.

I'm not loving BC, but man, SP just...I'm not too impressed with her as an actress a lot of the time. She didn't stink up DWL or her cameo in Serenity, but otherwise she's just abrasive combined with "meh", not to mention the no chemistry thing.

I think I'm thisclose to not bothering watching the other episodes. The one thing on Cupid's side is that I get home at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays so it's convenient to watch.

Adam said...

Alan, did the original Piven/Marshall version ever make it to DVD? I mean, it's nice that it's on Youtube, and the Toronto news briefs during the closing credits are a nice bonus feature, but some image quality and screen resolution also would be good. . .

Alan Sepinwall said...

No DVDs for the original, no. The TV studio that produced it (Columbia/Tri-Star) basically ceased to exist, and the company that acquired the library doesn't care.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Given your post (and yes, I've noticed it too) about how ABC shows love having "it's goofy!" music playing as a cue, I think ABC is having troubles believing its audience has any amount of (intelligence), and thus asked them to telegraph these kinds of points with a sledgehammer.

That's certainly the impression that I get. Everything has to be spelled out in huge block letters, and half the time Trevor doesn't get to do much work because the couple is basically in love by the time he shows up, and all he has to do is solve some logistical issues.

Christy said...

This was my favorite episode to date. So what if the parole officer/ jewel thief bits weren't believable. I don't watch this as a procedural. It's romance!

Still, Paulson is totally charmless. I may well steer clear of any show that features her in the future.

Unknown said...

I can't believe Paulson still gets roles. IMO, she was the biggest problem w/ Studio 60 given that the show was based on the feelings between her character and Matthew Perry's. The lack of chemistry was obvious then, now even more so in Cupid. I wouldn't be too harsh in saying she should never get a lead female role again, hell I can't even see her in a supporting role. Alan, whats your take on this? Does she have any redeeming quality to you?

Anonymous said...

paulson rocked in deadwood.

miss isringhausen was one of my favorite characters.

Brandy said...

saved but when he pulled out the picture of her with her friend who had moved away my first thought ways that I knew how to fix the show, hook her up with the other guy and start again with a replacement therapist.

Would it fix all that is wrong with the show? Nah. But it would have potential.

Karen said...

Geez, reading this review plus the comments does nothing to make me regret pulling "Cupid" from my DVR lineup. What a shame.

You may not know it, but Paulson and Cannavale are also appearing on stage together in a very unpleasant-sounding show: there's residual carry-over that poisons their relationship on the show?

This also casts a little bit of light on their off-screen dynamic:

I liked Paulson in the movie with Gretchen Mol as Bettie Page and I liked her in Down with Love, but people need to stop making her romantic leads, because she's just not that woman.

james said...


This show stinks.


ABC is ridiculous for its antics. Maybe the actual shots are decent but the editing is bad. I don't know.

Both leads overplay their characters. Paulson is too angry while being too stupid. Cupid has it too easy and is too careless.

Why repair something that wasn't broken? Don't they get people loved the old show for certain reasons?

Oh well, All The Small Things is balling. Too bad it's only 6 episodes.

Anonymous said...

I keep thinking I must be in a bad mood or tired or something when I'm watching...the show can't actually be THIS boring. But apparently it is.

The couple of the week wasn't great, but just as in previous weeks, I much preferred them to Trevor and Claire. Compared to Piven and Marshall, I find Cannavale and Paulson equally disappointing and all their scenes, especially their scenes together, painful.

Tracey said...

Ugh, the chemistry is so very, very bad... I found myself wondering if perhaps they had originally filmed the first episode more like the original Piven/Marshall one, and then every noticing that they were toxic together, they cut most of their scenes together, and proceeded that way throughout the series.

Claire's reaction to being robbed made me physically ill. What, was this written in 1955? The weak little woman needs the big stwong man to walk her home, she's too scared to do it alone? Gag!

They tried to use that walking home business to graft some level of romance onto this sorry relationship, but it just didn't take. I never bought for a moment that she was starting to have feelings for him, and the image of the two of them standing together under the umbrella at the end didn't remotely give me the sense that they were getting too close.

So what was the happy ending here? That the parole officer skipped town with the jewel-thief-turned-locksmith? How exactly were they supposed to survive? Has she accepted the idea of a life of crime?

There was one bit that gave me a genuine giggle: when Paula's drunk friend spills that Paula is in love with the locksmith, and the friend and Trevor high-five each other. OK, yes, that actually made me LOL. But mostly I'm just watching them burn out these last few episodes out of affection for the original.