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Salt Lake City Weekly Love and Hell

ABC shoots down 'Cupid' and Fox sends 'Brimstone' to hell. Can they be saved from cancellation?

By Bill Frost

FEBRUARY 8, 1999:  Last Tuesday, ABC stopped production on Cupid, the critically hailed drama/comedy that debuted in September 1998, and issued this statement:

"Cupid has been a labor of love for everyone at ABC from the very start. The writing was phenomenal, the production was first rate, and the tremendous talent of its stars, Jeremy Piven and Paula Marshall, really gave the show life. Unfortunately, despite everyone's efforts, the audience just didn't respond. As of today [Jan. 26], production has been suspended, but the show is scheduled to air on Jan. 28 and Feb. 11."

After next Thursday's airing--ironically, the Valentine's Day episode--the God of Love gets yanked from the tube. This isn't just another case of a good show getting canceled; it's one of those rarefied scenarios of a superior series, one that seemed too intelligent to be on network television in the first place, getting shut down due to idiotic scheduling practices.

Basically, the ratings for Cupid--centered around the idea that the mythical Love God (played with mile-a-minute hilarity by Piven) is banished from Mount Olympus until he pairs 100 couples together--sucked. ABC originally positioned the show in Saturday night limbo, a notoriously bad slot for anything, much a less a romantically slanted series. Last month, Cupid was moved to Thursday nights, opposite NBC's unkillable Must See Thursday line-up. Even with so-so Frasier and still-lousy Veronica's Closet running against it, Cupid was probably even worse off than before--so much for "everyone's efforts." The "audience just didn't respond" because there was no audience.

Well, no audience in the sense of big, let's-sell-the-Buicks Nielsen numbers (Cupid averaged 4.1 million viewers; Frasier and Veronica average around 20 million), but the following is out there--and they are pissed.

Being one who follows the goings-on in the TV biz, I had to break the bad news to several devout Cupid fans. They're all females, they all loovve Jeremy Piven, and they all responded by slugging me in the arm and shouting "No [expletive] way! You're the TV guy--do something!" It was ugly. Multiply that by 4 million and you'll have an idea of what is, hopefully, coming down on the pinheads at ABC this week.

If you're a fan interested in contacting said pinheads, send a plea to the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), 77 W. 66th St., New York, N.Y. 10023. The phone number is 212-456-7777, and a cyber-mountain of Cupid contact info can be found at www.interlog.com/~jackman/save_cupid/index.html. If you've never seen Cupid and wonder what all this is about, don't miss the Thursday, Feb. 11 episode--you'll be a believer. Just don't come around here and slug me in the arm.

Strangely, the same week that a show about a man trying to get back into the heavens gets canned, another about a guy working to stay out of hell gets the plug pulled, as well: Fox's Friday-night downer Brimstone, starring Thirtysomething's Peter Horton, has had its production stopped dead.

In Brimstone, Horton's Ezekial Stone is a dead police detective condemned to hell after killing his wife's rapist. When a jailbreak (hellbreak?) unleashes a band of hell's prisoners, the dead cop makes a proverbial deal with the Devil (played with brilliantly evil wit by John Glover) to capture the escapees in exchange for heavenly redemption. Cupid has to unite 100 blissful couples, Stone has to capture 113 damned souls--these guys could probably work together: "Cupid & Brimstone, Tuesdays on The WB!"

The campaign to save Brimstone is already well under way, thanks to the show's rabid Internet following and their foresight: The stop-production on Cupid, which had reportedly been picked up for the rest of the season, came as a shock. Conversely, Brimstone has been a virtual goner since its late-season debut, stuck in the same timeslot that's killed many a decent sci-fi show before it. The show will air a couple of more times in its Friday, 7 p.m. timeslot before Fox makes the final decision, which can be further influenced by e-mailing askfox@fox.com, as countless Brimstoners already have.

At this point, its a safer bet that Brimstone will escape hell before Cupid gets off Earth.

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