WHEN IT COMES to TV, there’s no denying we — the streaming population at large — love things that get a little steamy. Look at some of the shows that have dominated streaming charts and public discourse over the past few years: There was Outlander, the Scottish highlands fantasy romance that revolves around time travel (and sex); Game of Thrones, the fantasy drama that sees fictional noble families fight for control of a mystical land called Westeros (while having plenty of sex); Bridgerton, the period romance following its characters’ search for love in a time of polite society and arranged marriages (but also sex) … even The Idol, HBO’s drama everyone can’t stop talking about, spreads the raunchiness on thick.
So if you’re looking for the next titillating TV series to make your new guilty pleasure, look no further than Rivals, the upcoming Disney+ romp due to hit screens in late 2023 or early 2024.
An adaptation of the Jilly Cooper novel of the same name which was published in 1988, Rivals will capture “the joy, drama, excess, and brazen power-grabbing of the affluent elite in 1980s England,” according to a press release from Disney+. It follows ex-Olympian MP Rupert Campbell-Black (who will, and TV top dog Tony Baddingham, who are a pair of — well, rivals.
From the outset, Disney+ promised that the series would be a “steamy” and “raw” exploration of “class, race, sex, wealth and sexual liberation” — but in a new interview with The Times, one of the show’s stars revealed just how steamy things will get. Aidan Turner, who previously appeared in The Hobbit film series and BBC’s Poldark, stars as Declan O’Hara, a TV presenter seeking revenge.
“We have so much sex on our show, we have to have two intimacy coaches. Two!” Turner told The Times.
Intimacy coaches — or coordinators — are a recent evolution in the Hollywood world, having been popularised post-Me Too. Their job on set (as skewered, in fact, in none other than The Idol‘s first episode) is to ensure actors wellbeing is prioritised during the creation of steamy romance or sex scenes.
“Every day we’re in a different huge manor house somewhere, having garden parties,” Turner continued, speaking of his experience on set for Rivals. “And it is that thing as well, which happens sometimes in shows — and I see it happening [here], though none of us have kind of admitted to it, but it’s definitely there — where there’s a slight method-y thing happening. We’re all up for the party. We went out the other night to the Ivy. We had a late night, lots of cocktails. Never wanted a season two of anything more in my life.”
For more details on the upcoming — and clearly, incredibly raunchy — series, read on.
What is Rivals about?
According to Disney+, Rivals will immerse us in the shoulder pad-heavy, cutthroat world of independent TV in 1986.
“In the fictional upper-class county of Rutshire, a long-standing rivalry between two powerful men is about to boil over: ex-Olympian, Member of Parliament, and notorious womaniser Rupert Campbell-Black, and his Rutshire neighbour Tony Baddingham, controller of the independent TV franchise Corinium Television,” Disney+ said in a press release. “As tensions rise and rivalries deepen, there are spilled secrets, forged alliances, and snatched liaisons that draw wives, lovers, colleagues, friends, and families into their battle.”
The series will consist of eight episodes, and want to bring “a 2020s lens to the 1980s”. The Rivals novel itself is the second book in author Jilly Cooper’s Rutshire Chronicles, which trace the affluent elite of Britain through the ’80s. It currently consists of 10 books (the most recent of which was published in 2016), and is linked by recurring characters including Campbell-Black.
Who stars in Rivals?
In one half of the leading roles, Alex Hassell (The Boys, Violent Night) will play the rakish, charismatic ex-Olympian turned Tory MP Rupert Campbell-Black. He’ll be up against the beloved David Tennant (best known for his work as the tenth Doctor Who), who will play the egotistical Lord Tony Baddingham, controller of Corinium Television.
Also starring in the series are Aidan Turner (The Hobbit) as TV presenter Declan O’Hara; Danny Dyer (EastEnders) as honourably and loveable self-made millionaire Freddie Jones; and Claire Rushbrook (Sherwood, Secrets & Lies) as Lady Monica Baddingham, the dependable wife of Tony. Katherine Parkinson, Lisa McGrillis, and Emily Atack also star.
When will Rivals come out?
The series is currently being filmed in Bristol, and as such there hasn’t been a date set for its release. However, it’s expected to land on Disney+ in late 2023 or early 2024.