"Cruel" Fate for "Manchester Prep"

Fox axes never-aired, Cruel Intentions-esque teen drama

By Joal Ryan Oct 07, 1999 9:00 PMTags
Looks like a case of premature eviction for the randy TV version of teen sex drama Cruel Intentions.

Manchester Prep, due to kick off Fox's Thursday nights starting in December, was axed by the fourth-place network Wednesday.

Fox said those ever-pesky "creative differences" (with Columbia TriStar, the studio behind the series) doomed the show. No word on whether its two in-the-can episodes will ever make it to air, although that's considered a dim prospect.

The hourlong drama series is the second formal casualty of the fall season, after NBC's Mike O'Malley Show (which got the hook after only two outings). ABC previously pulled the never-broadcast romantic sitcom Then Came You from the fall lineup, but promised to bring it back at midseason.

Manchester Prep, starring (as is the current fashion) a gaggle of telegenic and mostly anonymous young things, was to revolve around the high-powered--and sexually charged--goings on at an elite New York private school. The main characters were culled from the 1999 movie, Cruel Intentions, starring Sarah Michelle Geller and Ryan Phillippe. (That flick itself was drawn from the classic French novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, not to mention umpteen stage and film spinoffs.)

Just as Cruel Intentions was criticized for being a teen-friendly R-rated movie, Manchester Prep was raising eyebrows for being a so-called "family hour" show (positioned in the 8-9 p.m. time slot) with eyebrow-raising plot devices.

The most infamous Manchester bit involved the opening moments of the show's pilot--wherein a teen girl ogles her stepbrother through the shower and comments on his, er, member.

"Sex will play a part in it," executive producer Roger Kumble said in defending his series (and that scene) at press conference last July, "but I'm not trying to break new ground in television...I don't think I'm going to be any more risque than a Dawson's Creek episode."

Kumble, who wrote and directed Cruel Intentions, likened his project to a "Teen Dynasty."

The difference? Dynasty (the adult version) ran eight years. Manchester Prep ran less than zero. The show never had a chance. After items about the shower scene broke in the papers, Fox sent the show back to the shop for retooling.