Daily Buzzkills: The Heathers remake gives us the urge to purge
Just when the economy was entering a tentative upswing and the wheels of industry seemed to be turning again, we have to report yet another major factory closing: We are no longer able to manufacture outrage over another pointless remake now that Heathers is being made into a TV series. After all, these machines were only built to withstand so much gear-grinding; these pumps can only handle so much bile under pressure. During our last evaluation, right around the time Bionic Woman was being relaunched and three different Knight Rider projects were on the docket, business was booming. Our The Original Wasn’t Even That Good division reported its strongest numbers ever, and for the first time, a newly formed Childhood Raping department took the place of outsourced consultants. But the rising cost of overhead—and particularly raw materials like sarcastic casting choices, and belabored moans about the alarming lack of creativity in what is ostensibly supposed to be a business built on ideas—has forced us to take stock of where we stand. And where we stand is Heathers: The TV Show. Great. Fine. You win. We give up. Maybe we’ll start manufacturing Roombas or something.
Don’t get us wrong. There are plenty of reasons to decry the idea of taking Michael Lehmann’s cultishly adored high school satire and turning it into a weekly show on Fox, beginning with the fact that the original Heathers has never really gone away. Not only is it still a TBS and slumber-party staple, it's been strained through Hollywood cheesecloth so many times already it’s practically in our drinking water, with the “let’s get the bitchy clique” motif turning up wholesale in everything from Cruel Intentions to Jawbreaker to… actually, it might be easier to name movies made after 1989 that didn’t borrow heavily from Heathers’ vision of high school as a cutthroat, hyper-stylized world, where teens communicated solely in clever quips, and a character’s popularity was immediate shorthand for an almost pathological cruelty. There are trace elements of Heathers all over the TV landscape, including the Aeschylus And Abercrombie And Fitch melodrama of would-be Heathers competitors like 90210, to name another Shannen Doherty remake no one was asking for. And like Shannen Doherty, years of abuse have obscured the beauty of the original, and forcing it to stand next to its younger models probably isn’t going to do it any favors.
Another reason this plan doesn’t bode well? This is network TV, where all the most excitable, spunky ideas go to get their nuts removed. Heathers worked as well as it did precisely because it had huge, dangling balls; it didn’t give a shit, so much so that its most loveable characters were a pair of homicidal spoiled rich kids who murdered other spoiled rich kids for kicks. The entire movie was a series of staged suicides, monologues driven by hormonal misanthropy, out-and-out nihilism, and lines like, “Fuck me gently with a chainsaw.” One of its best scenes involved Christian Slater calmly whipping out a pistol and firing off a few rounds of blanks in the lunchroom. Today you can’t so much as mention the word “gun” without setting off “Columbine” alarms—and even if you were to keep the “staged suicide” plotline, how do you keep that up for multiple seasons, and without pausing every commercial break for a compulsory PSA on how suicide is “no laughing matter”? What exactly are we looking at here?
Most likely, we’re looking at a craven attempt to piggyback on the success of Gossip Girl—though given the involvement of Sex And The City/Men In Trees alum Jennifer Bicks, with the sort of frothy-around-the-edges comic touch that Fox brings to most of its dramas. We’re also looking at producers who refer to remakes of 20-year-old films as “fresh and original ideas” as if they’ve never read a snarky pop culture blog. We’re looking at fans of the original turned off by a slick and—if all the necessary concessions are made—virtually unrecognizable pale shadow. We’re looking at teens wondering why “this dumb show doesn’t get off Mean Girls’ tit and do something new.” And we’re looking at the ashes of the once-fertile creative ground of television and saying, “Now there’s an industry that self-destructed—not because society didn’t care, but because the industry was society.” Now that’s deep. Or depressing. Mostly just depressing.