Cable network Starz has become one of the television industry's most unabashedly female-focused programmers, specifically making programming that's not just about women, but aimed squarely at female viewers. From swoony period romances like Outlander to historical dramas about often overlooked or misunderstood female figures like The Serpent Queen, the network has been downright eager to reach out to an audience demographic that's often treated as an afterthought.
Its latest offering is the sumptuous period drama Dangerous Liaisons, a prequel of sorts (the network refers to it as a "prelude") to the events depicted in the nineteenth-century French epistolary novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos and the 1998 Academy Award-winning feature film starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, and Michelle Pfeiffer. It looks fantastic, with lush sets, gorgeous costumes, and a crackling lead couple that seems as likely to stab one another as to kiss.
Clearly, the network agrees, since Starz is so confident in the show and its likely success that it's already given in a Season 2 renewal, well before its first season has even premiered.
"Dangerous Liaisons is addictive, provocative, and beautifully rendered,” Kathryn Busby, President, Original Programming at STARZ, said in a statement. “This prelude to the famed 18th-century novel illuminates pre-revolution Paris at its most decadent. We are confident that by the end of season one viewers will be craving more scheming and seduction.”
Starz's Dangerous Liaisons introduces us to the future Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont when they are still just Camille (Alice Englert) and Pascal (Nicholas Denton), a pair of young lovers struggling to survive in the gritty underbelly of Paris and longing for more influential positions in society.
Despite Valmont's insistence that he only loves and wants Camille, he's secretly busy seducing the current Marquise de Merteiuil, a powerful older woman he believes can help him gain favor in court with several other influential women around town. (He's also collecting letters and other trinkets for potential blackmail material.)
But when Camille discovers these other relationships, the first of many betrayals shatters the trust between the pair, kicking off a cycle of revenge and passion that will follow them for the rest of their lives. As they repeatedly manipulate and betray one another, Camille finds herself taken in by Genevieve (Lesley Manville), the current Marquise de Merteuil. The latter begins to teach her the art of using secrets to win control over her own life and secure her position. Valmore, for his part, will stop at nothing to reclaim the title his stepmother has stolen from him and prove to Camille that she should take him back. (Even if that means seducing another woman at her request.)
“We’re greatly appreciative to STARZ and Lionsgate for their ongoing support of the show," said executive producer Colin Callender. "We’re very excited to share Harriet Warner’s brilliant vision for season two, which will see our world expand and the relationships between our characters deepen in thrilling, dangerous new ways."
The series' ensemble cast is already stacked with talent. Englert, Denton, and Manville are joined by Kosar Ali (Rocks) as Victoire, Clarice van Houten (Game of Thrones) as Jacqueline de Montrachet, Paloma Faith (Pennyworth) as Florence de Régnier, and Michael McElhatton (The Wheel of Time ) as Jean de Merteuil Other notable cast members include Nathanael Saleh (Letter for the King), Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Black Sails), Lucy Cohu (Torchwood: Children of Earth), Fisayo Akinade (Heartstopper), Maria Friedman (In Deep), and Clare Higgins (The Sandman).
Dangerous Liaisons Season 1 premieres Sunday, November 6 on Starz, with weekly episodes to follow. Production on Season 2 is slated to begin in early 2023 in Prague, Czech Republic.