July 07, 2003 08:50 AM

Simon Cowell is about to shoot some arrows into lovers’ hearts.

The judge whom people love to hate on “American Idol” is the man behind CBS’s new dating game “Cupid,” debuting Wednesday, and he says he is ready to face the ratings war despite a glut of reality shows that are not faring as well as they have in the past. (Even FOX’s “American Juniors,” an “AI” spin-off, has lost 40 percent of its audience since it premiered, reports Monday’s New York Times.)

Speaking to the Associated Press, the ever-blunt Cowell, 43, who conceived of “Cupid” and serves as its executive producer, says: “Regardless of the competition or the timing, if something is fundamentally good, it will work. If something is fundamentally bad, it won’t. I don’t think you could ever invent the perfect time slot for any show.”

As several TV reviewers pointed out over the weekend, “Cupid” appears to be a combination of “AI” and “The Bachelor.” The action focuses on bachelorette Linda Shannon, 25, an advertising copywriter from suburban Detroit who relies on two of her friends — and the viewing public — to help choose her potential mate.

Besides a possible husband, Shannon also gets to take home a $1 million dowry — which she only keeps provided she marries the guy and then sticks it out for at least a year.

According to Nielsen Media Research, similarly themed shows haven’t exactly won the hearts of summer watchers. ABC debuted “The Dating Experiment” on June 25 to a puny audience well below 5 million viewers while FOX’s “Anything but Love” fared only moderately better.

But veteran “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” producer Michael Davies thinks that given the Cowell pedigree, “Cupid” has a real shot at success.

“I think Simon Cowell is an extremely talented person with a great feel for pop culture,” Davies tells AP. “He’s one of those guys you would do very badly to bet against.”

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