Ken Tucker
October 16, 1998 AT 04:00 AM EDT

What keeps Cupid from being too cute is…well, I don’t know what does, actually. Its premise is downright fey: Ellen‘s Jeremy Piven claims to be the god of love, while his kinda-attracted-to-him therapist (Paula Marshall) thinks he may be just crazy. Furthermore, Piven gives the sort of motormouth wise-guy performance that sometimes makes you want to slap his smirky little face. The series, as exec-produced by Scott Winant (thirtysomething, My So-Called Life), is structured around the notion that Piven’s Trevor must bring 100 couples together in true love before he’s allowed back onto Mount Olympus — verrry cute.

Yet rather than being Landlocked Lonely Hearts Love Boat, Cupid is charming — lively and funny. Piven and Marshall play off each other as well as all the lovelorn sad sacks around them with the sort of aplomb and clever repartee you’d expect from a guy who worked on thirtysomething and My So-Called Life. Another episode or two, and I’m not even going to mind Piven’s smirk and will instead concentrate primarily on Marshall’s moue.

You’d think Cupid would be perfect Saturday-night programming — romantic escapism for dateless people — but its lead-in is the overrated revival of Fantasy Island, which is getting kicked in its coconuts by CBS’ Martial Law and dragging down Cupid‘s chances of soaring. Trevor is averaging only one romantic matchup per show; ABC, do right by this series and permit him to reach at least a quarter of his goal before you pluck his invisible wings. B+

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