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TELEVISION REVIEW

'Cupid' shoots for cute

Bobby Cannavale stars as a psychiatric patient who believes he's Cupid in the ABC comedy. Bobby Cannavale stars as a psychiatric patient who believes he's Cupid in the ABC comedy. (eric liebowitz/abc)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / March 31, 2009
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Part of me wants to tell you that ABC's new "Cupid" is breezy, romantic fun. Part of me wants to encourage you to stop thinking so much and enjoy Bobby Cannavale's mania as a man who believes he's Cupid and who leads a ward of psychiatric patients through a joyous "All You Need Is Love." Part of me wants to forbid myself the use of the word that rhymes with "Cupid" and begins with "st."

But that's a very small part of me. Most of me is wondering who at ABC really thought that a remake of the failed 1998 series "Cupid" was even close to a good idea. Most of me feels a renewed appreciation for the dark and twisty obsessives from another ABC series, "Grey's Anatomy," who overexamine their love lives and sneer at the happily-ever-afters that are Cupid's stock and trade. When Cannavale asks "Why do mortals make falling in love so difficult?" in the premiere, at 10 p.m. on Channel 5, most of me wants to answer "Because we're not as boring as you are."

"Cupid" is set in New York, the capital of the United States of Cynicism, and so our hero is right in the midst of the enemy. Calling himself Trevor Pierce, and renting a room upstairs from a nightclub, he needs to come up with 100 successful love matches before he can return to his Mt. Olympus home. Meanwhile, he's undergoing scrutiny by psychiatrist Claire McCrae (Sarah Paulson), a rational self-help guru who runs a singles therapy group. With no subtlety at all, the show puts Trevor and Claire at opposite ends of the spectrum: He believes in heat and spark, she's all about cool pragmatism.

Is "Cupid" trying to make Claire into Cupid's Psyche - the mortal who eventually becomes his wife? If so, that's pretty awkward, in that she's his, you know, therapist. And then Paulson (from "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip") and Cannavale don't have much of a chemistry anyway. He's boyishly likable to a sometimes irritating extreme, and she's proper and uptight to a sometimes irritating extreme. They have none of the charge that makes Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz so amusing and natural on "Bones."

In the premiere, Cupid tries to bring together an Irish musician and an American woman he has fallen for. After the first 15 minutes, you'll be able to see exactly where the episode is heading and which character will learn which lessons about love. And I suspect that the show will remain predictable in future episodes, as Cupid mines Claire's singles group for potential matches and she keeps making a big stand for caution in love. Each week, like "Hello Dolly" meets "The Love Boat," a new couple will be minted.

"Cupid" is from executive producer Rob Thomas, who created the original "Cupid" with Jeremy Piven and Paula Marshall. Thomas, who has shown more originality with "Veronica Mars" and his new Starz series "Party Down," seems bent on making this concept work, despite its impossibly flat premise. Hey, maybe his passion for "Cupid" just isn't destined to work out.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. For more on TV, visit www.boston.com/ae/tv/blog.

CUPID Starring: Bobby Cannavale, Sarah Paulson, Rick Gomez, Camille Guaty

On: ABC, Channel 5

Time: Tonight, 10-11

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