I haven’t made up my mind yet about the new Cupid, but since the original Cupid hasn’t been pulled off YouTube yet, it’s interesting to compare the changes creator/writer Rob Thomas has made to address perceived problems with the original series. Or to put that in a less run-on-sentence-y way: Thomas has tried to identify things that might have caused the original version to bomb, and change those things. One change that Thomas has promised was evident — more time spent on the Special Guest Couple. Much more time. Too much time, really. But there are other differences, especially in the many parts of the two pilots that were similar or identical.
The look of the new show, obviously, is a big change: much lighter and brighter. The original was probably more of a comedy than the remake, but the remake wants to be cute and sweet even when it’s serious; everything about the remake has been lightened up and made more whimsical, including the new version of the love-couple story.
The new show has also been pumped up with more peppy mood music, and is being played more whimsically by the actors. The first interview between Cupid and “Psyche” is virtually the same in both versions, but in the original version, the lighting is dark and gritty, there is no background music, and the actors are playing it almost naturalistically. I prefer the way it was played in 1998, but Thomas and ABC undoubtedly feel that that naturalistic feel was working against them.
The original opened with Paula Marshall (whose legs, I have had occasion to remark before, helped make the show worth watching) getting the call to see this guy who thinks he’s Cupid, and meeting this obnoxious, cocky, slovenly man. The remake adds a prologue that actually gives us Cupid playing Cupid, trying to help someone get the woman he loves. Sure, his wacky scheme goes awry, but he willingly lets himself be arrested to keep the other guy out of trouble.
In the original, when we meet Cupid, he’s kind of horrible and grungy. We see that people like him and think he’s funny, but he’s the sort of person who might or might not have redeeming qualities. In the remake, Dr. Studio 60 first sees Cupid leading a hospital full of people, patients and staff alike, in a rendition of “All You Need Is Love.” He’s not a grungy slob, either. We’re supposed to believe that he’s basically adorable and brings joy into people’s lives, like Kris Kringle in Miracle On 34th Street. (A character, and a movie, that Thomas has cited as an influence on both versions of Cupid, because Kris was a character who might be crazy or might be Santa Claus, and the movie never clearly said that he was one or the other. The other big influence was Moonlighting, and Thomas has kept the original version’s tip of the hat in calling the Special Guest Couple Dave and Madeline.)
You know, the more I compare the two directly, the less kindly-disposed I feel toward the new version; it re-enforces the feeling that it’s left behind some of what made the original version so special. But the original version did bomb, so I can’t really say the changed approach is a bad idea. I’ll have to wait for another episode or two to see how it works out.
Additional point: Is it a jinx when the characters on a show announce that they’re on a mission with a defined end? I’m thinking specifically of Cupid (the original, and possibly the remake too), which defined the character’s mission as 100 couples and therefore 100 episodes, and Star Trek, which announced a five-year mission but was canceled after three. It’s like when the characters tell us in advance that they’re going to last long enough to get to 100 episodes, fate steps in and tells them no.