Back in 1998, the tech boom was booming with no bust in sight; five years since the first World Trade Center bombing, terrorism still felt like something that happened in faraway places; Ford Motor Co. had $6 billion to shell out to buy Volvo Cars; and Titanic won the Academy Award for best picture, giving old-fashioned romance a good name (destined to be dinged thanks to the Lewinsky scandal).
You might think that a show about taking a chance on love would have been a big hit, but perhaps, in this pre-DVR era, scheduling it on Saturday night – when anyone looking for love was probably out doing just that – wasn’t the best idea.
But, as we enter an age of financial panic, ABC is betting that love will find a way and has given Cupid another chance.
Series creator Rob Thomas, has recast and slightly refashioned his original concept, now airing on Tuesdays.
It just feels like a better time, Thomas says, a better network now, a better time slot for this. Ten years ago when we did this show, I think ABC was a network that did not know what it wanted to be. I think the year they picked us up, it was us and Vengeance Unlimited.’
Taking the role originally played by Jeremy Piven, Bobby Cannavale (The Station Agent, Third Watch) stars as Trevor Pierce, whose continued insistence that he is really Cupid, the Roman god of love, exiled by Zeus to New York, eventually lands him in a mental hospital.
Three months later, after being determined to be harmless, Trevor is released under the care of psychiatrist and self-help author Dr. Claire McCrae (Sarah Paulson, taking over from Paula Marshall). He must also attend Claire’s singles group-therapy sessions.
This works out for Trevor because he claims that if he can match up 100 couples, he gets to return to Mount Olympus. It’s more difficult for Claire, whose practical approach to love clashes continually with Trevor’s reliance on instant chemistry.
Rick Gomez and Camille Guaty co-star as a brother and sister who run a struggling bar where Trevor works as a bartender and lives upstairs.
One thing that hasn’t changed from the original Cupid is that viewers are left to decide for themselves whether Trevor is truly a supernatural being or merely deeply delusional.
Cannavale, though, has already decided.
Yeah, I did, he says. It’s important for me to be really specific about that and weigh both options. Do I want him to be a god, or do I want him to be crazy? The writing supported either one for me.
I didn’t even have a conversation with Rob about what he thinks. We can disagree on that, and it would still work. But that’s part of the big fun for me, committing to do something really specific. I managed to do that for the eight episodes. It’s really fun.
Those who know what Claire’s about might be surprised.
An interviewer will say to her, Your character’s a real cynic about love,’ Cannavale says. She always says, That’s not true. She’s a real romantic. It’s just that she’s been burned before, and she’s trying really, really hard to stick to her guns about this taking-your-time thing.’
That’s a really smart way to approach the character, because it’s just contradictory to what’s being said out loud. Of course, that happens all the time – we want to be one thing, but really, we’re something else on the inside.
So she creates this really complicated inner life that makes for really interesting readings of the lines, that I don’t think Rob even expected when he wrote them.
With the world suddenly turning very risk-averse, Cannavale says, It’s ironic that we’re talking about me playing the protagonist on a show that promotes the idea of taking a risk, when that’s probably what’s gotten a lot of people into a lot of trouble in the last few years.
Losing your savings could be a lot more damaging than taking a risk in asking a person out or agreeing to go sky diving with this person, because you’re attracted to them, or agreeing to go on a date.
There’s less danger in that, especially now.
But even Trevor might become less devil-may-care about love as the series progresses.
His philosophy of love is an evolving one, Cannavale says, which is why the relationship with Claire is so important.
He hasn’t gotten to the place yet where he understands the purpose of true love. He just wants to go home.