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On The Tube: Fox brings 'Cruel Intentions' to the small screen in 'Manchester Prep'

Thursday, July 22, 1999

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

PASADENA, CALIF. -- The movie "Cruel Intentions" stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillipe, Reese Withspoon and Selma Blair.

This fall the TV version of the film, Fox's "Manchester Prep," stars unknowns Amy Adams, Robin Dunne, Sarah Thompson and Keri Lynn Pratt in the same roles.

The only holdover from the film, actor Sean Patrick Thomas who romanced Blair's naive Cecile, will join the TV show in the second episode as a different character. Thomas, who is African-American, wasn't in the pilot but was added to the series after Fox executives declared the show too "lily-white."

Roger Kumble, who wrote and directed the film and the TV show pilot, said he always intended to add Thomas to the cast. There was just too much to set up in the first episode to include his character.

The title was changed in the switch from film screen to television because producers feel it should be viewed as separate from the film, which was based on "Les Liasons Dangereuses."

"We wanted to say that it's kind of based on the movie, but it's not the movie," said Neil H. Moritz, executive producer of the film and series.

The film's story -- about evil, power-hungry stepsiblings who flirt with one another on their way to deflowering a virgin as an act of revenge -- has been revised. Kathryn Merteuil (Adams) continues to be the naughty one. The pilot even suggests she seduces her stepbrother Sebastian (Dunne), although Kumble said the second episode will make clear they didn't sleep together.

"It's kind of like coming close to the edge," Kumble said. "Sebastian, even though he struggles with his morality, would never cross that line. She wants him, but she can't have him, not only because they are relations but also because he doesn't want her."

Kumble said the series will be no more risque than "Dawson's Creek," but sex will play a part in what he calls a "teen 'Dynasty."

"Sex is part of teenagers' life today and to not show it would be as wrong as showing too much," Moritz said.

Sebastian will be more sympathetic in the series than he was in the first part of the movie.

"We kind of threw out the movie and started all over again," Kumble said. "The story we wanted to tell was about good versus evil and about redemption."

In the series Kathryn will be the leader of a secret society, the Manchester Tribunal, which attempts to control the destiny of the entire student body.

Although "Manchester Prep" is another teen show, there's at least one prominent adult in the recurring cast. Mimi Rogers plays a parent and she'll appear in three of the first six episodes beyond the pilot.

But will the series even last that long?

Fox won't premiere "Manchester Prep" until late November or early December, by which point a competing teen show in the same time slot, "Popular" on The WB, may have found an audience, an audience strikingly similar to those you'd expect to watch this show.

IF YOU CAN'T GO: Fox will air "Woodstock '99," a two-hour special with musical performance highlights from the three-day music fest going on this weekend in Rome, NY. Danny Masterson and Wilmer Valderrama, stars of "That '70s Show," will host the special.

MORE MUSIC: Asylum Records will release a "King of the Hill" soundtrack in October featuring music from The Mavericks, Deena Carter, Trace Adkins, Faith Hill and three songs performed by the "King of the Hill" cast.

VOICE WORK: In the season premiere of "The Simpsons" (Sept. 19), Homer becomes a Hollywood consultant and advises Mel Gibson, who provides the voice for his animated likeness.

Lucy Lawless, Dick Clark and Tom Arnold voice themselves for the annual Halloween episode and Jay North ("Dennis the Menace") plays himself in an episode where the Simpsons visit a '50s diner.

"Family Guy" will feature a bevy of voice talents, including Luke Perry, Lee Majors, Adam West and Erik Estrada. Listen for the cast of "Murphy Brown" (Candice Bergen, Faith Ford, Joe Regalbuto and Charles Kimbrough) to give voice to their animated selves. "Family Guy" will also break from animation for a few live-action sequences this season.

"King of the Hill" will feature voice cameos by Meryl Streep, Drew Carey, Heather Locklear and Kathleen Turner.

CASTING ABOUT: It's funny how things change. In 1994 Fox's "Party of Five" was an also-ran to "My So-Called Life" in the race for critical acceptance. After "Life" died, "Five" was embraced.

Now "Life" refugee Wilson Cruz is joining the "Party" in a recurring role as a new nanny for baby Diana.

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