The end of the year is typically a time for reflection on the wins and losses of the previous 12 months, but as news breaks of the shelving of the planned Cruel Intentions TV pilot, it is not entirely clear which category that project would have fallen into. It seems that the show never made it beyond the ‘in contention’ stage, and instead fell through the cracks in the shuffle of cast options and attempts to find an appropriate home for it in the schedule. We now know that NBC officially passed on it in October, and that Sony TV has been trying to find a new home for it ever since.
The pilot was intended to be a follow-up to the 1999 film Roger Kumble film, Cruel Intentions, which was itself a reworking of Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. That source material was most notably adapted for cinema as the Stephen Frears film Dangerous Liaisons in 1988, but Cruel Intentions found a new audience with a story geared toward teens, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, and Selma Blair. The TV pilot had Gellar in its cast, reprising her role as the villainous Kathryn Merteuil.
The premise of the series continued the emphasis on manipulation, sexual intrigue and tragedy – with Gellar’s Kathryn Merteuil scheming for control of her family’s corporation, as well as for control of her nephew, Bash Casey. The character of Casey would be a new introduction, being the son of Kathryn’s brother Sebastian (played in the film by Ryan Phillippe), and his lover Annette (played in the film by Reese Witherspoon). Original director Roger Kumble was on board as executive producer.
Should the Cruel Intentions pilot find a new home, we can expect it to be thoroughly re-imagined. It clearly has some potential – being a known property, with talent from the original movie supporting it – but that original movie is now 16 years old, which means that a large proportion of the lucrative late-teen audience for the TV show may well never have seen the film to which it is related. This is a significant obstacle to the success of the project, and it will be interesting to see how it meets those challenges – if at all.