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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cupid strikes twice

This is a strange one for your Valentine's Day: Almost exactly one decade to the day after ABC stopped airing Cupid, ABC ran promos tonight for a show by the same name, launching March 31. Only seeing the name the first time out, my initial guess was the network had another reality show in the works — and that was unlikely in the short institutional memory of television that anyone would care there had been a clever series with a cult following by that name a decade earlier.

It's clear I'm not up on my TV news, because, in fact, the series that depicted Jeremy Piven as a man who thinks he's the mythological god of love, banished, Thor-like, to the streets of Chicago is, in fact, coming back — reimagined and recast by its creator, Rob Thomas. With Piven's star having risen due to Entourage —and Thomas having cultivated another cult hit in Veronica Mars — the network actually decided to give the original concept another go.

The original series, with its Pretenders theme song and its Chicago locations, launched on Saturday nights in 1998 behind another remake — the Malcolm Macdowell Fantasy Island, which didn't fare well. A bit of an irony that the Valentine's Day episode was its last, it always seemed.



Still, thanks to Piven's interplay with Paula Marshall, who played the psychiatrist trying to figure him out, the series developed a cult following. I liked the little touches here and there that implied that Piven's character might be who he claimed to be — and that there were other mythological figures around, including the Muse running the record store. I don't know what the fans of the original series will make of the new cast and version — but an early reviewer is pleased. TV still being TV, though, it's hard to know — evidently the midseason series order was cut to seven episodes from 13, which doesn't exactly bode well.

We're a little further into the DVD age now — enough so that cult audiences for series change the financial calculus going in — so maybe Thomas is right in hoping that the time is right this time. (And maybe the fans of the original can get the series on DVD before the electrons flee from our old VHS tapes.) Who knows, maybe there's hope for Wonderfalls...
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