When Rob Thomas first launched his much-loved if little-seen series Cupid in 1998, it was a more innocent time for dating: Text messaging was a pipe dream; online dating was still a secret shame; The Game meant basketball.
For a second go-round of Cupid, coming to ABC in March, Thomas has all sorts of modern dating foils to play on. But the bare bones are still the same: Trevor (Bobby Cannavale) claims to be the god of love, Dr. Claire Allen (Sarah Paulson) will evaluate Trevor's sanity, and they will dance around an unacknowledged attraction that's obvious to everyone but themselves.
Thomas (Veronica Mars) talked with SCI FI Wire and a group of reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Universal City, Calif., last week. Following is an edited version of that interview. Cupid kicks off March 24 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
Is this the ultimate validation for a producer/writer, that you get a second shot?
Thomas: Well, I think it'll only be validation if it works. If it doesn't work, it's not validation at all. It's the validation of the American public having made up their mind and it was never meant to be.
It's still a big deal to get a second shot from a studio.
Thomas: Oh, trust me. I'm digging it. I appreciate, and I know it's such a rare thing to get that shot, but for true validation, syndication would be validation.
How do modern-day dating issues give you more stories for Cupid?
Thomas: We do have an episode in which Claire is asked to, for a new online dating company, come up with the questions that would be asked on such a form. It revolves around this sort of thematic unity. It's sort of the John Henry story. Trevor, by God, is going to match by hand and go against Claire's steam engine of computer dating.
There are also schools of pickup artists, like the Mystery Method. Could Trevor go after those guys?
Thomas: Yeah, in fact we did that. One of our worst episodes, we did a similar thing 10 years ago with the Speed Seduction [by Ross Jeffries]. I don't know if you remember that phenomenon. Trevor [then played by Jeremy Piven] was intrigued by this idea, "If I can make matches that much quicker ... ," and ended up being creeped out by the whole idea. Though I will say that was not one of our finer episodes, there's an interesting footnote to that: The guy who played the romantic lead was Todd Field, strangely enough, who went on to bigger and better.
Could Claire turn out to be more than just a psychologist?
Thomas: That is the intention. I'm hoping people catch that in the first episode, that when Claire says, "Cupid fell in love with a mortal, Psyche," and we're sitting in her psychiatrist's office, and Trevor says, "No, he didn't. That's not true." What I'm trying to hint at is no, no, we're seeing that story now play out.
Is there some sort of market research that says you'll have more viewers if you say he's Cupid, if you say he's not, or if you leave it ambiguous?
Thomas: Certainly they're very serious about testing it. They test it, and they take that testing very seriously, but they rarely get into the hypotheticals of "Would you like it better if ..." It's "Did you respond to this actor, this actor, this actor? Did this storyline work for you?" So it doesn't deal in the "What other show would you like?" Or at least not that I see.
Did you ever think about not calling it Cupid again?
Thomas: No. I suppose I never really considered that. Even though the show failed, I think people's impression was generally pretty positive. I didn't want to run away from it. I was proud of the show whether people watched it or not, so it felt like a great title.