Oh my, this iconic Jilly Cooper novel is being made into a brand new Disney+ TV series

Power, betrayal and fast-paced romance: the race is on to capture the Cotswold Crown, as Jilly Cooper’s iconic novel Rivals is being adapted into a new Disney+ TV series.

You don’t have to be an avid bookworm or have a comprehensive knowledge of the 80s literary scene to know a little something about Jilly Cooper’s novels. Over the years, her beloved book series Rutshire Chronicles about the scandalous escapades of the showjumping and polo-playing crowd of the British upper classes has become synonymous with the term “bonkbuster”; but to this day, none of the colourful books featuring Cooper’s notorious protagonist Rupert Campbell-Black have actually made it to the small screen.

All that’s about to change, though, because it’s just been announced that Disney+ has greenlit a brand new TV series based on Cooper’s iconic novel Rivals.

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Capturing all of the joy, drama, excess, and brazen power-grabbing of the affluent elite in 80s England, the story of the second of Cooper’s books in the Rutshire Chronicles series will now be given the TV treatment in a new eight-part series.

Per the official synopsis, Rivals “dives headfirst into the cutthroat world of independent television in 1986, where the shoulder pads are big and ambitions even bigger”.

Set in the fictional upper-class county of Rutshire, the series focuses on a bubbling, longstanding rivalry between two powerful men: 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.

“As tensions rise and rivalries deepen,” the synopsis continues, “there are spilled secrets, forged alliances, and snatched liaisons that draw wives, lovers, colleagues, friends, and families into their battle.”

Rivals by Jilly Cooper

While some of Cooper’s older novels have elicited controversy for their depiction of sex and gender roles, the new series is set to reflect upon the 1980s with a 2020s lens. With all of the requisite “drama, sex and good social comedy” that readers have come to expect from Cooper’s novels, Rivals will offer a “raw exploration of a complicated moment in British history when class, race, sex, wealth, and sexual liberation meant that, for the very privileged few, there were no limits to what they could achieve.”

Though the search for the actors that will portray the larger-than-life characters has yet to begin, the new series is being created by an impressive team, including executive producers Dominic Treadwell-Collins (A Very English Scandal, Holding, EastEnders) and Alexander Lamb (The Bay, We Hunt Together, Ackley Bridge).

Olivier Award-winner Laura Wade (The Riot Club), meanwhile, has leant her talents to the script alongside Treadwell-Collins, while Elliot Hegarty (Ted Lasso, Cheaters, Trying) will direct.

Jilly Cooper at home in Gloucestershire in 2000

“I am so, so excited,” commented Cooper. “Throughout my childhood, my favourite word was ‘Disney’, and by a miraculous coincidence, greater-than-ever Disney are joining forces with an utterly brilliant drama company, Happy Prince, to turn my novel into a TV series. I know they will bring the boardroom battles and love triangles of my characters to life – particularly those of my devastatingly handsome hero. I cannot wait to see who will be stepping into his shoes… let the hunt for our Rupert Campbell-Black commence!”

Lee Mason commissioning executive for Disney+ EMEA, added: “The combination of Jilly Cooper and Disney+ is delightfully unexpected. We were thrilled when Dominic brought us these iconic books, and we leapt at the chance to bring them to life. We can’t wait to welcome Rupert Campbell-Black and the residents of Rutshire to the platform.”

There’s no word on a release date just yet, but we’ll keep this piece updated as and when more details come to light.

Images: ITV/Shutterstock/Getty/Corgi

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