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Fall '98: "Cupid's" Charm

When I was in high school, my hero was a young man nicknamed "The Perv." The hero worship I gave to him was earned by the fact that he was rather lucky with the ladies. And I was not.

The Perv loved to regale us with his tales of sexual conquests. We would literally sit at his feet, listen to his stories, and pepper him for details about every single moment. And at the end if he felt particularly gracious he would try to solve the problems of us lovelorn "losers."

"All you losers just need to get laid," he'd say as he strutted about cruelly lecturing us about our various states of sexual ineptitude. "But you gotta be willing to take a chance."

While The Perv was a hell of a charmer, he was also a Grade-A misogynist, and (if you asked his mother) a Grade-A bum. My hero may have known something about sex, but he didn't have a clue about women. But he was right about one thing--you gotta be willing to take a chance.

Which brings us to Cupid. Because when I watch this show, I can't help but think of my old friend and think somehow he's gotten a development deal with ABC.

If you haven't seen it, you're missing out. Cupid is simply the best new show on TV.

The first time I heard about Cupid, I had only one thought: Stinker! A man who may or may not be the Roman god of love has to unite 100 couples before he can be allowed reentry into Olympus? "Jesus," I thought. "This sounds like a sad remake of Love, American Style."

Never have I been so thoroughly and happily proven wrong.

Because where I expected a show that would be smarmy and overly sentimental, I was treated to a program that is at times profane, cynical, heart-warming, hip, mean-spirited, and extremely funny.

Unlike most of the tear-jerking romantic hours you'd expect to see on a Saturday night, Cupid works because it's got amazingly sharp, intelligent dialogue. The arguments between Trevor "Cupid" Hale (Jeremy Piven of Ellen, in a tour de force performance) and Dr. Claire Allen (Paula Marshall, Michael J. Fox's love interest last year on Spin City) feature enthralling, hormone-charged banter not seen since the likes of Dave and Maddy from Moonlighting and Fleischman and Maggie from Northern Exposure. This is not a coincidence -- two of Cupid's producers are Ron Osborn and Jeff Reno, and both list Moonlighting on their resumes.

But while those bickering TV couples of the past argued about everything but sex and love, that's all that Trevor and Claire argue about. Trevor uses The Perv's methods -- life is short, so go out and grab some for yourself. Claire, a psychologist and self-proclaimed expert in relationships, insists on shopping for a mate as if you were shopping for a good pair of sneakers.

If Cupid shares anything with tripe like Love, American Style, it's the anthology series feel it gives off. While Claire and Trevor are constants, every episode provides a new set of couples, a new set of possibilities for two people to fall in love. And yet -- mostly due to Trevor's is-he-nuts-or-is-he-Eros mission -- it all seems to make a sort of wacky sense.

I love this show because I am a single man. Cupid is all about looking for love, from the perspective of the people who don't know where to find it. It can be cruel, disheartening, and vulgar, and at the same time, it's romantic, uplifting, smart, and funny. And for all its cynicism, it has more genuine heart than just about any other show on the airwaves today.

Of course, if you're single and watching Cupid on Saturday nights, you're missing the whole point of the show. So take Trevor's advice: grab a tape, stick it in the VCR, and go out and live life. And when you're back at home and ready for some tube time, one of TV's most surprising series will be waiting for you.


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