It’s a day ending in “y”, which means that at least one network is probably ordering another potential TV series based on a film. Whether it’s Rambo, Training Day, The Omen, or The Exorcist, the onslaught of big-to-small screen translations doesn’t show signs of slowing down any time soon. The latest title to add to the ever-growing list is Cruel Intentions, a 1999 teen melodrama starring such heartthrobs of that era as Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair, and Sarah Michelle Gellar.
An updated take on Dangerous Liasons, Cruel Intentions centers on rich high school playboy Sebastian Valmont (Phillippe), who has designs on adding beautiful but sheltered virgin Annette Hargrove (Witherspoon) to his long list of conquests. Sebastian’s plans hit a snag when his manipulative step-sister Kathryn proposes a wager. If Sebastian can successfully seduce Annette, Kathryn will in turn finally let him add her to his sexual trophy case. If Sebastian can’t do it, Kathryn gets his expensive sports car. Of course, the bet isn’t quite on the up-and-up, eventually leading to lots of different people sleeping with or trying to sleep with each other, including Kathryn’s rival Cecile (Blair).
Despite mixed reviews from critics, Cruel Intentions was a big hit at the box office, raking in nearly $76 million worldwide on a just-over $10 million budget. Two direct-to-video sequels followed, neither of which featured the original cast. Interestingly, the second film was assembled from what was intended to be the beginning of a prequel TV series entitled Manchester Prep, and featured future Oscar darling Amy Adams in an early role.
That all brings us to the present day, in which NBC has officially ordered a pilot for a Cruel Intentions TV series. Rather than trying for another prequel idea, or simply remaking the events of the film, this new small screen venture serves as both a reboot of the franchise and a loose sequel to the first movie.
The main character is named Bash Casey, and he is the son of Sebastian and Annette from the original (although why he has such an odd name is anyone’s guess). Not much else is known about the plot yet, outside the fact that the young and ambitious Bash apparently has a quasi-incestuous relationship with his power-hungry aunt Kathryn, mirroring the similarly taboo flirtations between Kathryn and Bash’s now late father. Franchise creator Roger Kumble is returning to write and direct the pilot.
At first glance, adapting Cruel Intentions for TV seems like a bit of an odd choice. After all, most of the films being ported to TV so far are those with an easily marketable genre, like horror or action, a high concept, or at least a large built-in fanbase. While Cruel Intentions does tend to be fondly remembered by those who came of age at the time, that does not at all guarantee that the property will attract a new generation of devotees, especially since the franchise has been dormant since 2004. Still, MTV’s Scream and Teen Wolf have shown the teen market is ripe for the picking, so NBC might just have a winner on its hands if it targets that demo correctly. If it doesn’t, the network might be in store for a bitter sweet symphony of its own.
NBC’s Cruel Intentions TV series has no current premiere date.
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