It’s been a rocky road for Paramount Network’s Heathers reboot. The series was initially announced as part of the Viacom channel’s launch strategy (Paramount Network is the rebranded Spike TV). It was supposed to air this past March, but after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Paramount decided to delay the series… and eventually canceled it altogether.
But not anymore! In a surprising move, Paramount has announced that an edited version of the series will air in a marathon block from October 25th - 29th. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the 10-episode series has been condensed into 9 episodes. Gone is the exploding school finale (which, to be fair, was inspired by the original film), and a sequence in which a character plays a video game that depicts a shooting rampage in a school. But based on this new promo, the plot line involving armed high school teachers made the cut!
In a perfect world, the controversy around the Heathers reboot would simply be a conversation about whether the pitch black 1988 film starring Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and Shannen Doherty needed a reboot at all. We could wax on about what merits there are in updating the premise to tackle the ways popularity and bullying are expressed in today’s high schools. Because that is an interesting conversation! Hell, Heathers was a foundational film in my childhood and I’d be happy to leave its legacy alone, but I also can see where there is room to create an intelligent, meaningful modern take on it.
But sadly, the nature of cliques and popularity isn’t the only change that’s occurred in the 30 years since the original film came out. Back then, the violent retribution meted out by J.D. and Veronica was simply satire. Now it’s reality. The question is whether this series is simply going to be mining laughs from aspects of teen life that we’re not really ready to be laughing at, or if there is another dimension to the show’s satire.
For Paramount, the decision to air the show makes a lot of sense. They’ve already canceled several of their new series (though the Kevin Costner-led Yellowstone has been renewed). But by far, Heathers has earned the most buzz, for better or for worse. And given the caliber of talent involved in the series, it also was clearly a large investment. Though Paramount was able to sell the series to some international markets, they were unable to find another domestic home for it (Netflix and Freeform reportedly passed on it). Cutting it down and airing it now is a last-ditch attempt to salvage their investment, and maybe draw more eyeballs to their network.
And even that trailer is a mixed bag. On the one hand — that’s the first look at the show I’ve seen that actually makes me intrigued. The cast is great, the jokes seem sharp, and the writers clearly have a distinct take on modern teenage life. However, the commercial is also exploiting the show’s own controversy, bringing out Doherty with a bloody croquet mallet to note that the series is “finally” premiering. “Binge it up” sounds like “Let’s get this over with” to my ears, and rather than selling the show based on what it does well, the network seems to be cashing in on our curiosity over just how offensive it’ll be.
Will it work? I dunno. Honestly, I am curious. And I sort of want the show to be good. But I also worry that, even if it is sharp and clever and funny, and even if it does bring something new to the table, it’ll still hit a little too close to home. I’m not ready to laugh about school violence — or if I do, I’ll feel really shitty about it. Happy Halloween, I guess?
Header Image Source: Paramount Network