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‘Prep’ plug pulled

Fox yanks 'Cruel' spinoff before its launch

Fox Broadcasting Co.’s troubled “Manchester Prep” has turned into a liaison mortel.

On Wednesday, the net pulled the plug on the skein, apparently deciding the show simply had no long-term prospect for survival. Production on the Columbia TriStar Television-produced series, which wasn’t skedded to bow until December, had been halted several weeks ago amid reports of conflict between the studio and the web over the best way to re-formulate the skein. Addition production talent was also added.

“Prep” was a small-screen version of last spring’s modestly successful feature pic “Cruel Intentions,” which revolved around a handful of devious, privileged teens and the mischief they made. Both the series and pic were designed as younger takes on the classic French novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.”

In addition to the creative concerns over “Prep,” Fox execs also had fears about the show’s edgy content, which included explorations of incest and teen sexuality. Rupert Murdoch, head of Fox parent News Corp., was said to be outraged after seeing a syndie newsmag story on “Prep” that previewed a scene in which one of the young female characters is sexually aroused by a horse.

Fox had planned to launch “Prep” on Thursday nights as part of a bid to put a chink in NBC’s Thursday armor. The night has instead turned into a disaster: “Prep” is stillborn and already-bowed laffers “Family Guy” and “Action” are dying.

Attempts to reach Fox spokesmen were unsuccessful Wednesday and a CTTV rep declined comment. “Prep” exec producer Roger Kumble issued a statement saying he had “enjoyed working with Sony Television and the Fox network.”

But, he added, “We were all unable to come to terms on the ultimate direction of the show. I have decided to move on and focus on my next movie, which will be with (Sony).”

Fox had ordered 13 segs of “Prep,” but only two full episodes — including the pilot — were actually shot. The web and CTTV are still hammering out a settlement on fees for the remaining segs, industry sources said.

“Prep” is not the first Fox skein to get the hook before its debut. The net killed a Scott Baio sitcom weeks before its skedded 1997 launch, and last season dumped “Hollyweird” before its first airing.