The new Fox drama Manchester Prep now joins 1998’s Hollyweird and 1997’s Rewind in that exclusive club of shows that made it onto the network’s fall schedule, never to see the light of day.
Based on the film Cruel Intentions, the series’ pilot was beloved among execs but didn’t come without controversy. In one scene, lead Kathryn (Amy Adams) admires her stepbrother’s physique in the shower; another features a taboo-busting (and subsequently nixed) kiss between the two.
But while the sex did concern Fox topper Rupert Murdoch, ultimately the show was canned because it didn’t live up to the net’s expectations. ”We wanted [a series about] hip kids in New York and we got Dynasty, but not in a juicy, Melrose way,” says one programming exec. Numerous script revisions and two production shutdowns didn’t fix the problem, so the net threw in the towel before wasting any more money. After all, Fox’ll need all the cash it can get if it’s still planning to crash an airplane as a sweeps stunt.
Create a hit TV show and, before long, rival networks and studios will try to sign up anyone responsible for it.
That’s what scribes at the hip series du jour, HBO’s Sex and the City, are finding out. Cindy Chupack, who last spring was wooed by Mike Ovitz’s Artists Management Group with a multimillion dollar deal, has comedy pilots in the works at ABC and CBS. And last month, NBC Studios shelled out $7 million for Sex scripter Jenny Bicks. ”It’s a little frustrating,” acknowledges HBO original programming prez Chris Albrecht, who hopes those exiting the fold ”are not disappointed by the creative environment they’re entering.”
”Everybody feels these writers have had the flush of success,” says ICM agent Alan Berger. True enough. But success on one show does not guarantee future hits. Just ask Jeff Greenstein and Jeff Strauss, who got big bucks based on their work on Friends, then flopped with subsequent efforts, Fox’s Partners and Getting Personal. At least they got their new shows on the air — several other ex-Friends writers didn’t even make it that far. So the question is, will Hollywood still respect the Sex scribes in the morning?