The Wife:

While I don’t recall ever watching the original run of Rob Thomas’ Cupid back in 1998 with Paula Marshall and Jeremy Piven, I admit that I am the kind of person who would be drawn to such a premise. I love Greco-Roman mythology and I enjoy seeing modern adaptations and spins on it, and offering my “I’m friends with a Classics professor so I totally know what I’m talking about” judgments on whether or not those adaptations succeed. (Although the CW’s Valentine, about Greek gods living in L.A., just didn’t seem to pique any level of interest in me at all. Nor in anyone else, apparently.) So being that I don’t recall ever watching Cupid in the 90s – which I realize now was probably because it was airing on Saturday nights, which just means ABC wanted it dead from the beginning and that I was also probably too busy going to sleepovers, being dared to call boys I liked and read them bedtime stories, to tune in – I figured I would give the reboot a chance.

And you know what? That show totally doesn’t suck.

The generosity accorded to Rob Thomas to reboot his formerly failed series by ABC, however, was not as generous in its feelings toward this show as I am. The original run of the series produced 15 episodes, and aired 14. This run was only 7 episodes, intended as a try-out for fall, because that’s how television producers work these days. ABC killed a few great things this year, one of which might rhyme with “Smushing Lazies,” and I think that left viewers a little mistrustful of anything new ABC had planned to debut in the spring. In the Motherhood, while admittedly not great, was interesting simply for the fact that it was a female-led show about an issue that nearly every woman on the planet can relate to (if she isn’t currently a mommy, she certainly had one once), and had a lot of potential to grow and further explore the current parenting climate (which in the last ten years has switched to the kind of stay-at-home-and-do-everything-right-and-organic-and-be-totally-involved-and-honest-with-your-kids idea embraced by Jessica St. Claire’s character) in relationship to other models (the working mom, the cool mom who raised her kids counter to any advice and everything turned out just fine). But it never quite found its footing and so failed its try-out. Better Off Ted is lucky its quirky mcquirkfest survived. Cupid should have.

Bobby Cannavale: Right on the mark as Cupid.

Bobby Cannavale: Right on the mark as Cupid.

Why am I so gung-ho about this show? For one, I think Thomas found the right lead in Bobby Cannavale and was smart to move the show from Chicago to New York. Cannavale is good-looking in an Italian Mama’s Boy sort of way, and incredibly affable. It makes perfect sense that he would be the kind of person strangers would invite into their lives if he offered to help them, and it makes perfect sense that he’s the kind of person clever enough to manipulate social situations to facilitate his matchmaking. In short, if Bobby Cannavale asked me to fly to NYC from New Orleans to cater a party as his Trevor Pierce (renamed from the original Trevor Hale) did in one episode where he reunited a Cajun caterer with her high school Iraqi war vet sweetheart, I probably would. As for the move from Chicago to NYC, NYC is often a space that invites fantasy in many popular stories. I’ll name only one example here that should serve as the paramount one: Miracle on 54th Street. It’s a city with its own mythology and a long history of being a dreammaking place: for immigrants, for actors, dancers and musicians, for artists and also for writers. It’s also a city in which people move and mingle with others numerous times a day, but promotes the isolation of modernity in that while its denizens inhabit mutual spaces, they don’t often connect with each other. I buy it as a place a god would try to turn into matchmaking central, especially because his therapist’s single’s groups prove to be an integral part of how the show’s main and peripheral characters, and how they are all trying to break away from the isolation of modernity and connect with others. There was talk in the production process that Cupid would relocate to Los Angeles, and while Francesca Lia Block has convinced me that L.A. can be a space of magical realism, I don’t think it would have worked nearly as well as New York did.

Furthermore, I like the idea of a show that believes in the concept of true love. We live in an age where the CW exploits people’s relationship issues on national television with Hitched or Ditched, where we look at the tabloids every day to see if John & Kate are going to fall the fuck apart (uh . . . yeah, that’s probably going to happen since the couple has a very special “announcement” pending; and I hate that I don’t watch that show and know about this), and where hookups have somehow replaced dating.  We all know that the divorce rate is high, and we all know that my home state has leveraged a terrible and oppressive measure against its non-heterosexual residents that bar them from even daring to challenge that statistic with their same-sex relationships. When I look at the divorce rate and the disappearance of date culture, it seems like a good number of us have given up even trying to sustain a partnership; that we prefer to be alone, save for a brief interaction every now and again that we don’t have to put any further energy into. While I wouldn’t say that having a life partner is right for everyone, I certainly like having someone to watch TV with every day. It makes me feel like this big, giant world is less lonely. That isolation of modernity thing I was talking about? Having someone to go through life with certainly makes me feel less isolated.

So when I see so much negativity toward relationships in the reality television world and in the real actual human world, I can’t help but be smitten by a scripted show that tries to remind us of the good parts of being in a relationship with someone, and how fun it can be to take that plunge. Cupid may only be a string of meet-cutes, but it’s also about love overcoming obstacles. None of the matches Cannavale’s Cupid makes in the 7-episode run are easily procured, and, somehow, through his crazy/divine providence, he is able to unite these couples in the promise of everlasting love. I’ve already mentioned the Cajun caterer and the Iraq veteran, which came to a bittersweet ending as the vet announces that he’s getting stop-lossed and sent back for a third tour of duty, something he planned to avoid by running away to Canada and never coming back – only to change his mind and do his tour of duty, knowing that if he lived, his Cajun caterer would be worth coming home to in order to live out their days under the willow trees in their hometown in Louisiana.

But perhaps my favorite of these divine matches came in the final episode, featuring adorable Broadway ingénue Kerry Butler as a working-class masseuse from South Boston in love with a man above her station (whom she broke up with because he never let her meet his family because of her wicked pissah of an accent). Cupid’s therapist, Claire, tries to find out his origin by hiring a linguist (one of her patients, as well) to listen to him speak and determine his origins. The “using linguistics to discover Trevor’s origins” plot was recycled from the show’s first incarnation, but the My Fair Lady angle was entirely new to this version of the series. But Cupid performs a bait-and-switch, setting up Kerry Butler with illocution lessons in exchange for massages, during which she forms a friendship with the linguist over several delightful My Fair Lady-esque diction lessons. Butler’s character is almost ready to give up, and declares that it doesn’t feel right to her to hide herself just to impress a guy, at which point her linguistics tutor reveals that he, himself, has been lying for most of his life. He, too, is from South Boston, but wasn’t taken seriously on his first day at Princeton because of his accent and worked very hard to eliminate all traces of his working-class roots from his speech. After sending Kerry off to meet with her ex at a fancy, uptown party, Trevor realizes in talking to the linguist that, perhaps, he’s been guiding Miss Butler toward the wrong beau and disguises the linguist as a waiter to crash the party and tell Kerry how he feels. After making a scene in which Butler’s intended’s parents reprimand “the help” for being so clumsy, Kerry throws off the upper-class accent she’s worked so hard for and embraces who she really is, as well as the Henry Higgins who reminded her of that.

If I had one complaint about Cupid, it would be that Sarah Paulson’s Dr. Claire McCrae never quite felt real enough – and not for Paulson’s lack of trying. She’s a great actress, with a lot of range, and if you want to see how great she can be, please watch her arc as a Pinkerton on Deadwood and her completely stunning comic performance in Peyton Reed’s 1960s screwball romance send up, Down with Love, in which you will also be treated to Ewan McGregor’s delightfully Ewan McGregor-y Southern accent. Paulson never got to break through her material here, and always seemed too stiff to fit into this world, which is only justifiable in the fact that her awkwardness in the role highlighted the irony that she, single and totally uncomfortable with people, should be in charge of teaching people how to find love through commonality. I think, if the show had gotten more of a chance, Claire would have eventually felt more real as her own walls started to break down and we learned as much about her as she does about Trevor Pierce.

I’ll miss this show, and I’m sad that we live in a world that’s unaccepting of its existence. But I’ll cherish that “My Fair Massuese” episode, if only because linguists are awesome and the following line is one of the best things I’ve heard on television recently:

“Nothing says ‘Thank You’ like the phonetic alphabet on cupcakes!” – Kerry Butler

The Husband:

A few points of interest:

1.) I adore Sarah Paulson, but between this and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, she’s gaining quite a few detractors. She’s not to the point of being an absolute show-killer just yet, but her dedication to her craft, which allows her to make very interesting decisions with very intense and sometimes unlikable characters, tends to give her a bad wrap, at least on television. But I can assure you that she’s one of the most versatile actresses of her generation, including her deeply strange performance that I saw in 2005’ Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie, also starring Jessica Lange, Christian Slater and Josh Lucas.

2.) I started noticing this right around the time that Kidnapped, Six Degrees, The Black Donnellys and 3 lbs. were all canceled in the same television season, in that unless a show was a Law & Order or a CSI, any show that filmed in New York was about 90% guaranteed to be canceled. And this year, that trend came back in a big way. With no exception this year, no show that premiered in the 2008-2009 television season and was shot (not just set) in New York was renewed for another season. (And Castle doesn’t count, because it’s shot in L.A.) This would include Life on Mars, The Unusuals and now Cupid. (And last year’s Lipstick Jungle, which moved on into this year, couldn’t survive either. But hell, at least it got a second season unlike the majorly similar Cashmere Mafia.) A part of me wants to say it’s the distancing location that seems to turn many non-New York viewers off, as if these shows take place in a world far too unlike the viewers’ that it simply doesn’t pique their interest. But, more than anything, it’s the fact that it’s so goddamned expensive to shoot in NYC, so even when ratings are doing okay, the networks use the expenses as an excuse to shut down production. I’m amazed Gossip Girl got renewed for a third season, since the ratings are so abysmal, but it’s definitely a pop cultural flagship for the network, so canceling it would just make the CW lose more viewers.

A book recommendation for ANYONE who liked the Left of the Dial episode of Cupid: Rob Sheffields Love Is a Mix Tape.

A book recommendation for ANYONE who liked the "Left of the Dial" episode of Cupid: Rob Sheffield's Love Is a Mix Tape.

3.) While I loved almost every episode of this show, my favorite, simply from a dramatic perspective, was “Left of the Dial,” in which a down-on-his-luck radio deejay tracks down his favorite caller and starts a relationship with her and her two children. It was the sweetest, least negative and most realistic episode of Cupid’s altogether too short season, and it’s a shame that not enough people stuck around to even watch the episode.

The Wife:

It’s the final two audition sessions before Vegas week, and after two surprisingly unspecial hours of television, I’m glad we’re moving on from the dreck. Look, L.A. should have been better than it was. The Official Mary Murphy Scream count for this episode was a big fat zero, and there should have been at least one to come out of L.A., which is the other place you go to be a professional dancer if you don’t want to move to NYC. But rather than devoting time to L.A. dancers who actually won tickets to Vegas (which I know was at least 18 from the second day of auditions, but have no idea how many tickets were scored on day one), I have 2.5 pages of notes on strangely disillusioned people or people who were good enough social dancers, but certainly not competition level. Why?

But L.A. wasn’t nearly as bad as my soon-to-be-home, Seattle, which should have been a playground for the folks from the Pacific Northwest Ballet, but turned out to be a breeding ground for the bottom of the audition barrel, rendering a measly 12 tickets to Vegas total for two days’ work. And that, friends, is where you sent Mia Michaels? Arguably the best choreographer on your show? To watch a dance battle between an adorable Ukrainian and Sex, the bane of my fucking existence? Really?

The most people you will ever see on an LA street at any given point in time. (Unless you're outside Mann's Chinese.)

The most people you will ever see on an LA street at any given point in time. (Unless you're outside Mann's Chinese.)

I usually like auditions, but this episode was by far the worst in terms of discovering talent. I’m glad its over. And so ready for Vegas Week.

Since these auditions were largely awful, I’m not going to write about them in order, but rather group these people by their audition outcome.

The Nos

Brynelle and Xavier Blanton: This brother and sister team did a very strange, very, very strange, slightly incestuous performance that I guess I can say had the right heart to it, but none of the technique to back it up. My husband was genuinely amused by a failed lift during which Xavier basically strangled his sister. I mean, their whole dance is pretty painful to watch as what they assume is grace actually comes across as extreme chiropody.

Debra Lawson: She definitely does not have a dancer’s body, but rather than straight up tell her that, Nigel tells her she should find a dance style that suits her body, since she clearly loves to do it. (To my eyes, though, her “dancing” seems to consist of running around and posing, and is just as strange as Brynelle and Xavier’s incestuous romance.) She then discusses how she’s not sure if she wants to be an Orthodox Jew because it means she can’t dance on the Sabbath and can’t dance before men. Shankers tells her that the only time he’s ever felt truly close to God is when he’s dancing, which I then realize is the only reason they kept her in the audition special because Shankers is filled with golden advice like that. I kind of love Adam Shankman, even if Bedtime Stories was abysmal.

Suzanne Fernandez: She is from Oakland and performs a fairy medicine dance. I just think it’s important that she was on the show to demonstrate that Oakland is, in fact, filled with such dangerous people as this woman.

Calico Sequiera: I both love and hate this woman’s name, but I definitely hate the fact that she thinks West Coast Swing is something we never see on SYTYCD. Clearly, she’s never seen the show because every year I look forward to seeing Swing dancing on the show, and one of the best Swing routines ever, in fact, was for Sarah and Pasha from season 4, choreographed by season 2 winner and West Coast Swing champion Benji Schwimmer. She is right, though, that we don’t get a lot of Lindy Hopping and Jitterbugging. She auditions with a good social-level Lindy Hop, and all the judges tell her she isn’t good enough for competition, but they’d love to dance with her sometime. And here’s the best thing that happened all night: Calico invites Shankers to dance with her, and he does. It is adorable and fun and, to put some icing on that delightful Shankers Sundae, Nigel and Mary invite previous contestants, Joshua Allen, Katee Shean, Comfort Fedoke and Lauren Gottleib to critique him.

Stacy House: This girl dances so violently I thought I was having a seizure while she was voguing.

Kevin “Shakiro” Cormier: Why? Why did this hip-shaking man in white pants grace my television screen? I can’t even comment on the dancing because I was so distracted by the fact that it was wholly evident his pants didn’t fit.

Actually Good and Semi-Good People

Bianca Revels: This girl has a great name and she also gives us the a cappella tap goods. I think she’s got a lot of spunk, but she’s clearly not as good as any of the guys we’ve seen. To drive that point home, Mary calls her the best female dancer we’ve seen. She earns a ticket to Vegas, though, because she made it that far last year.

Asuka K. and Ricky Sun: Asuka made it to Vegas last year on the strength of her Latin ballroom, but her partner Ricky didn’t. This year, these two are on fucking fire. I can’t take my eyes of Asuka long enough to notice Ricky very much, but I do notice how strong his carriage is and how good his footwork is. Shakers shares my sentiments and compliments Ricky on the fact that he isn’t distracting, which is good in a backhanded sort of way. They both earn tickets straight to Vegas. (This is also the second most inventive dance I’ve ever seen done to Duffy’s “Mercy.”)

3 random people earn tickets to Vegas and we don’t even get to know their names because we wasted our time on people like Stacy House!

Nathan Trasoras: Oh. My. God. This kid is so stunning. He dances in a way that is so focused and unexpected that I am absolutely overwhelmed. Additionally, he has great technical ability because he has an amazing, amazing center to his pirouettes and spots like a motherfuckin’ pro. I am super-duper impressed with this kid, but, tragically, he turns out to be only 17 and is therefore ineligible for this season of the competition! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! The good news, though, is that Nigel hands him a ticket straight to Vegas for the fall season of the show, at which time I presume he will be of age.

Sammy Ramirez: I am loving this young popper’s isolations, and he dances with such a wide smile on his face that you cannot help but love him. The judges send him through to choreography, to see what else he can do.

Amada Kirby: Her father has MS, and its clear she dances for him in the way she moves on stage. She goes straight to Vegas.

Phillip Chibib: Our second favorite popper from last season who unfortunately couldn’t compete in Vegas week due to illness returns and immediately earned a spot in Vegas! But this time, he wasn’t auditioning alone . . .

Arielle Coker: She met Phillip when her mother was recovering from car accident-related injuries and they decided to try and marry their styles together and dance together. Arielle’s mom taught Phillip to partner from a wheelchair, which is impressive. As for their performance, I do not like it nearly as much as the judges. I think the choreography is clunky and disjointed and Phillip’s style isn’t married to Arielle’s well at all. In fact, I don’t think it even shows off how good of a dancer either of them could be. But the judges say otherwise and give Arielle a ticket to Vegas, too.

Alexie Agdeppa, Diana Caden and Chanel Smith all get 15 seconds of airtime and go to choreography, where Alexie and Diana earn tickets to Vegas, but ballerina Chanel is denied. Sammy gets a ticket to Vegas after the choreography round, too.

And then the Pacific Northwest happened . . . and it went something like this:

The Nos:

Christopher Keller: I’m not sure if his play on Argentine tango and jitterbug and gender roles actually came across because the dancing was so bad, but, uh, nice comedy routine?

Nick “Nasty” Salzman: I’ll tell you what, this amateur tattoo artist has some pretty sweet ink but a pretty stank attitude. He was a good old-school breaker, but his attitude toward the judges basically talked him out of the chance to do choreography. Bad times.

Dmitrious Bitrevski: Oh my God, what the hell was happening when this kid was trying to dance? He is so, so tall that he has no idea how to maneuver his body and it’s very, very sad to watch. The judges suggest he take up ballroom where his height and strength would be better attuned.

Leonid Knyshov: Okay, so this guy basically danced like he was at a rave, which is fine. He knew it wasn’t right for the show. But holy ass, was he not the most charming, witty motherfucking Ukrainian you’ve ever met? He was busting out jokes about being in IT and he kind of has a Viggo Mortensen-ish look going for him. I mean, bad dancing aside, I think he’s quite a catch. I totally want one of my Russian-speaking friends to marry him so we can be friends. However, Mia, in a fit of insanity, suggests that he battle with Sex, who stalked the show all the way to Seattle, for, I guess, bad dancing superiority? I was not pleased with the invitation to indulge Sex, nor was I pleased with watching this craptastic battle. But I’m glad Leonid won. Not glad that Nigel offered Sex a chance at choreography, seemingly to prove to Sex that he just wasn’t at the right level. And you know why? Because that exercise failed. Every fucking year I’m going to have to see that douchebag, and that doesn’t please me.

The Good and the Pretty Good:

Kelsea Taylor: This Asian Amy Winehouse was a breath of fresh air in the Pacific Northwest. She moves in an intriguing herky-jerky way that Nigel rightfully notes Sonya would love. (I think Sonya might also make love to her, which is not a speculation on anyone’s sexuality, just a testament to how much Sonya would love her.) They send her to choreo, I suppose just so someone will be there, after which she earns a ticket to Vegas. Mia Michaels said of her something that I think might be my new About Me on Facebook: “I think you are a beautiful, disastrous weirdo, and I hope to see more of you.” Yes. That totally describes me, too!

Kuponohi’ipoi Aweaw: I’m a semi-professional linguist and even I have a hard time with that native Hawaiian name, so, props to Miss Cat Deeley for trying so hard! Kupono helps solidify a theory I have that all Hawaiians dance like season four’s Mark, and it’s true. However, he isn’t quite strong enough for Mary’s taste, moving a little too femininely sometimes, and the judges decide to send him through to choreography to test his mettle. He earns a ticket to Vegas, probably because of his deliciously flexed feet.

So, that’s it, ya’ll. Seattle produced two viable contestants, and after 6 cities worth of auditions, Cat Deeley tells us that over 170 people made it to Vegas, where they will be whittled down to a consumable 20.

The Husband:

Thursday night marked the final session of American Idol auditions, and we were privileged to view two locations in one. The first was New York City, which gave us 26 more Golden Tickets (rock that shit, NYC), and the second was Puerto Rico with…nine Golden Tickets. (How do you say “OH NOES!” in Spanish? Is there a Spanish LOLcats translator engine? Whatever. Just picture Fred Armisen hitting a drum and saying “Ay, dios miiiiiiiio…”)

So 35 GTs for the night, and yet in my last post I had counted that there were only 33 GTs left. Now, it’s more likely that I just misheard/miscounted during the previous shows (perhaps even tonight), but I prefer to think it’s a conspiracy to fuck with my mind. What accounted for those two extra tickets? The elvin magic of Seacrest. Where did they go? Josiah Leming and his monstrous ego.

Now onto the notes!

  • In all honesty, thank you so much, Idol director, for the West Side Story tribute in discussing both of tonight’s locations, even if it was pretty forced.
  • No matter how bad the episode (which it wasn’t, btw), at least we got to listen to orchestrations of both Bernstein and Gershwin. Rock those classic American standards, y’all glorious dead Jews.
  • In continuation of calling out interesting and/or funny jobs on the show in ridiculous ways, I continue with “FORMER” BANK TELLER! What an awkward several minutes as Simon tries to get the failed auditioner’s job back. How presumptuous, contestant.
  • Speaking of the “FORMER” BANK TELLER, I didn’t even realize she was singing Dreamgirls until the chorus.
  • I wholeheartedly welcome a multilingual Idol winner. How positively American.
  • WAITRESS AT ‘50s CAFÉ! How oddly specific. Was “waitress” not good enough?
  • In their introduction to beautiful short-haired African-American singer Melinda Camille, the show loudly played Hair’s “Age of Aquarius” in reasons confusing to me. Is general positivity about life an inherently hippie-ish quality? I would just call that “being happy.”

    Girl, you let that sunshine in!

    Girl, you let that sunshine in!

  • And speaking of Ms. Camille, girl, if you make it to the semifinals, do not grow out your hair. You’re gorgeous and unique, so don’t let the Man get you down.
  • Another sign that it’s a good episode no matter what? Playing songs from both The Darkness and Chris Isaak in the same segment. It’s a show after my own heart.
  • Rat hug!
  • GuyPod was brilliant. He was like a Tom Green bit gone horribly wrong.
  • NORMAN GENTLE” is a job?
  • Patricia Lewis Roman is just a good name, singing voice or not. All of her album names could be references to ancient times.

Aaand…that’s it. I have nothing more. It was a silly episode without much substance, so I guess that’s all I could muster up.

The Wife:

  • I did nothing but laugh at Idol’s attempt to link NYC and San Juan through that West Side Story montage. I kept thinking of the West Side Story segment of Animaniacs featuring the Goodfeathers, where the “I Want to Be in America” sequence is about how only the Goodfeathers get to perch on the statue of Martin Scorsese in Central Park. You know what else I thought of? This scene in Camp, where In The Heights‘ Robin DeJesus realizes his parents didn’t come to his performance of Romeo & Juliet like they said they would so he starts doing Maria’s monologue when she realizes Tony is dead. (Killer, killer, killer, killer, killer!) Yeah, I giggled for about five minute straight.
  • Uh, Paula? I’m pretty sure that everyone sings the same way, no matter what language they’re singing in.
  • Melinda Camille! I second my husband’s sentiments about growing out your hair if you make it onto the show! DON’T DO IT! He and I feel similarly about women with short hair, and there is nothing I love more than a gorgeous African-American girl who can pull off having a shaved head.