The cult classic 80s movie Heathers is getting a reboot? Well, fuck me gently with a chainsaw…
The new Spike TV-turned-Paramount Network is kicking off its reign with a reboot of one of the most controversial teen dark comedies around — Heathers. Originally starring Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, and Shannen Doherty, the story follows Veronica Sawyer, a girl in the popular clique at school called the Heathers (aptly named because all of the girls in the group are named Heather), who is kinda over the whole high school scene. She especially can’t stand Heather #1, Heather Chandler, the queen bee who has the power to destroy your life with just a few words. A new mysterious guy named J.D. arrives at school and together he and Veronica plot revenge against students who have wronged them. What Veronica thinks is initially some simple pranks to scare people ends up turning deadly and she learns that she can’t trust J.D.
Watch my review of the Heathers television reboot pilot, below:
There’s been a lot of mixed, but more negative, reactions to the new Heathers television reboot. After watching the pilot episode, I can see why. Let’s dive into the good and the bad when it comes to this new iteration of Heathers.
1. We get a guest appearance from OG Heather Shannen Doherty!
Yup, that’s right — Shannen Doherty makes an appearance in the pilot episode as J.D.’s suicidal mother. The Heathers pilot opens with the same “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” song as in the film, but with an eerier quality to it. We see Shannen Doherty in the Dean family home, which she burns the house down, and then, after waving to her son, a younger J.D., she shoots herself in the head. I thought opening up with this scene was incredibly strong. It really connected you to the original film in a dark but nostalgic way. I appreciated all the references to the original film, from the song, to the croquet set, to the dinner table complete with pâté, to the box of Hot Probs matches (referencing the call-in radio show), and even to the red scrunchie in Shannen Doherty’s hair. This scene as a whole was also bringing to life a moment we had heard about in the film when J.D. talked about his mother’s death. This opening then led into an equally strong theme song and introduction for the show. I liked the usage of the song “Run Run Blood” by Phantogram and all the black light moments. It felt like this gave me a great vibe for what the show could be.
2. There are a ton of references to the Heathers film.
The Heathers pilot definitely takes a lot of liberties with the source material, but I felt like they did put in some work into including iconic references to the original film in a new way. Some of them worked, some of them didn’t. In addition to the references from that opening scene with Shannen Doherty, the pilot also references the “Teenage Suicide Don’t Do It”-crooning band Big Fun by re-using their name as a corn nuts brand. They kept the name of the convenience store where everyone picks up their beloved slushees and corn nuts as the Snappy Snack Shack. They also find a way to include the iconic blue Hull Cleaner. While some might find these close-but-not-exact references as pandering, I appreciated that they found a way to include them in some way without over doing it.
3. The big twists at the end of the episode shook me to my core.
It’s safe to say this reboot of Heathers is not a remake, meaning they are changing things. There were three big scenes in this reboot that made this show go from “eh” to “WOW” in my eyes and made me feel like there was major potential. The first was, of course, that opening with Shannen Doherty. The other two take place at the end of the episode, so just a fair warning SPOILERS AHEAD…
The second moment that I didn’t see coming happened after Heather Chandler was killed and J.D. and Veronica put up a video on her Instagram making it look like she committed suicide. Everyone at school is in mourning and it’s time for someone to step up and do a eulogy. Heather McNamara and Heather Duke have been — for lack of a better word — duking it out over who will do it because whoever does will surely become the next queen bee of the school. When to everyone’s surprise, Betty Finn steps up to do it! In the film, outside of being Veronica’s old childhood friend, Betty Finn was just a sweet girl who didn’t really have that big of a role. I was pleasantly surprised to see this twist where Betty’s role is upgraded and she’s actually vying to take on the queen bee mantle that Heather Chandler left behind.
And the final scene that really threw me for a loop happened after Heather Chandler’s parents found out about her suicide. Her parents rush into her room frantically, her dad whacks her on the back a few times, and guess what? It turned out she had been choking on corn nuts and was not actually dead. She coughed them up and lived!!!! My jaw was on the floor! Those moments just surprised me and had me so intrigued to see what else the show could do.
1. Could this modern switch of making marginalized people the mean Heathers clique be offensive?
While the premise for the show is the same, it’s definitely been modernized and swapped around. In this show the teens that would’ve been stereotypically popular aren’t and the outcasts run the school. The Heathers are a diverse group including: Heather Chandler (Melanie Field), the body positive queen bee; Heather Duke (Brendan Scannell), a genderqueer student; and Heather McNamara (Jasmine Mathews), a black lesbian. Our Veronica (Grace Victoria Cox) is a pretty, rich, blonde girl who used to be a cheerleader. Instead of being the typical mean girl, our characters are stylish, bougie, politically correct bullies. It’s definitely taking PC culture to the extreme. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this switch. On one hand, it could be seen as villainizing underrepresented and marginalized groups; but on the other hand, could it be seen as empowering to give these minorities the power to be the mean and bitchy queens they want to be? Thinking about it that way did give way to a theory on how this role reversal could’ve come to be. Throughout the film, Veronica sort of reflects the outcasts and we also learn the inevitable fact that once a Heather disappears there’s always someone there to take their place. At the end of the film, Veronica grabs the red scrunchie that symbolizes the queen bee power from Heather McNamara and then makes friends with another outcast named Martha. Could this reflect the new reign of the school with our current Heathers being what would typically be outcasts and the cycle continuing?
2. The acting isn’t very strong.
Aside from Melanie Field as Heather Chandler and Grace Victoria Cox as Veronica, who I thought both had pretty strong performances, I was left underwhelmed by the rest of the cast. The remaining two Heathers seemed boring and full of snarky one-liners that didn’t really land. When it comes to James Scully as J.D., that’s where the casting really seemed to lack depth. While we got more time to see Veronica and J.D. getting to know each other, he just isn’t as sinister as Christian Slater’s portrayal. Maybe they’re trying to get us to fall for J.D. and think he’s not a bad guy until the shit hits the fan, but right now Scully’s acting isn’t coming across as the psychotic bad boy J.D. On top of the fact that he botches Heather Chandler’s death, this J.D. just really isn’t good at his self imposed job of knocking off members of the school’s popular clique.
3. The story veers very far off course from the original film.
Heather Chandler is still alive, and Kurt gifts Ram all of the items that J.D. and Veronica planted on them in the movie when planning their “fake” double suicide to make it look like they’re gay. Does that mean they really are gay? If so, our television J.D. and Veronica won’t be able to carry out the same ploy. Would they even want to since technically they’re all on the same side, i.e. not these new Heathers? Plus Heather Chandler surviving is completely new territory. What’s her next move? Fans of the original movie might not be as receptive to these new and different plot points.
Following this first episode of Heathers, I think it had a strong beginning and ending, but the middle was a bit of a mess. There are some really interesting twists and turns I wasn’t expecting, but OG fans might not be into them. As a viewer, it’s hard to tell if this is a show that’s actually good or not and I think I’d need to watch a few more episodes to really get a good first impression of it. Unfortunately the show might not even get a chance to try. After the Parkland, Florida school shooting, Paramount Network has delayed the Heathers premiere out of respect for the victims due to the satirical comedy’s “creative risks in dealing with many of society’s most challenging subjects ranging from personal identity to race and socio-economic status to gun violence.” But following another recent shooting in Michigan, will there ever be a good time to release this show? As of now, no new premiere date has been announced.