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Heathers: The TV Series (Don’t Do It)

by Angel Cohn August 31, 2009 12:02 pm
<i>Heathers</i>: The TV Series (Don’t Do It)

It was announced recently that some geniuses at Fox and Sony Pictures TV decided that it was about time to turn Heathers into a TV series, since everything else is being redone already. My knee-jerk reaction was that this was a horrible idea (and made me shout "fuck me gently with a chainsaw!" at my computer) but I decided in fairness that I would rewatch this iconic film from my youth yet again to see how they could possibly transform it into a weekly television show. Maybe it was outdated and ready for an reboot. But now that I have, I still think it is a terrible idea, unless they can get Tina Fey or Ryan Murphy to do it. Which they haven't.

Instead, Mark Rizzo (known for pretty much nothing except a pilot called Zip) and Jenny Bicks (a writer for Sex and the City and Men in Trees) are tasked with taking this sharp, dark high school-based comedy and bringing it to the small screen on a weekly basis, which seems like an impossible task unless it is going to air on FX, where it would have a small but fighting chance of not being the worst thing that I've ever seen in my life. The reason that 10 Things I Hate About You mostly works as a TV series on ABC Family is because that was more of a romantic comedy than anything. While Kat was sort of a spiteful outsidery bitch, she never actually killed anyone.

In my re-watching of Heathers, which basically involved me laughing along to the film (because I am a messed up human being), wondering why my mother didn't think it was wrong that this was my favorite movie, verbatim quoting the dialogue as it played (though I haven't actually watched it in at least a decade) and thinking how much of a debt of gratitude Mean Girls truly owes to this film, I was struck by how little of its content would actually be appropriate to air on network television today. The film is riddled with not only profanity, and cleverly written profanity that blends so seamlessly and naturally with the dialogue that it would be impossible to take out. It also tackles teenage suicide, bulimia, firearms in schools and constant smoking and underage drinking -- the PSA that follows each episode would have to be longer than the episode itself. And murder. Actual murder! Not just a girl writing in her diary (which would have to be modernized to be a blog at the very least) about how she wished that the head cheerleader or most popular girl would die a painful death, but two actual sociopaths who fall in love and then basically go on a Bonnie and Clyde killing spree. Yes, Veronica does have the good sense to realize that it's not entirely right, but that's after three people have been murdered either by her, or her bad boy boyfriend.

And if all that's taken out, you might as well just watch the bitchy girls on Gossip Girl. If they do end up greenlighting this series, they'll probably have a hard time casting it, too, because I couldn't imagine anyone but Leighton Meester as Heather Duke (the Shannen Doherty role) and I can't even begin to fathom who they'd find who could embody the madly-in-love murderous Veronica. Winona Ryder brought such depth to that role, easily coming across as sympathetic and wry and heartless and genuine all at the same time. It would require a dark sense of humor and strong acting ability that might be a rare find in a newcomer (though Ryan Murphy did find amazing people for Popular, so it isn't totally out of the realm of possibility), because I'm imagining that any actual actress with credibility wouldn't touch this rehash with a ten-foot pole. And so help me God if Kristen Stewart takes this role. That might cause me to commit middle-age suicide.

It would be fairly easy to cast J.D. -- they just need a good-looking guy who can imitate Christian Slater imitating Jack Nicholson. And the other two Heathers could be filled by any actresses who do vapid well. Though, if this is a weekly show, and the mean girls (and jocks) keep getting killed off, they're going to have to have an enormous supporting cast to pluck new victims from. Otherwise the school will have no students in a week. And how would this show even go on for more than a season? Wouldn't someone eventually catch J.D. in the act of faking suicides? Would it have to delve into Veronica's life post-J.D. tying a bunch of explosives around his waste and offing himself? It's hard to even imagine what they'd do.

The show's producers also have the massive task of just generally updating the movie for our day and age. The fashion would have to change drastically; a signature red scrunchie would just not be the cool thing to have to signify power in the popular clique, and there would have to be far less shoulder pads and hair. They'd have to find a new fancy food to signify their snootiness as pâté is so passé (maybe ceviche?). The hippie teacher and her discussion groups don't seem so far-fetched in a world where school shootings actually happen, but Martha Dumptruck would probably be prettier and from a minority group to diversify the cast and make it more attractive to teens. The radio call-in show would be a TV show, the lingo would likely have to eliminate the word stoked and the weekly poll would be done by internet voting and the signed petition would probably be a Facebook group. And croquet as a metaphor for life and Veronica's frequently used monocle would be eliminated as too over-the-heads of today's younger audiences. And Heather isn't even really a popular name for the modern generation, so unless this is going to be a period piece about the '80s, the name is going to have to get axed too. Because what are the odds of three girls who are teens in this decade having that name in the same school, all of them being popular to boot?

It does seem to be okay to have J.D. crawling into Veronica's bedroom at various hours of the night, though, especially post-Twilight. But that brings me back to J.D. and his father's tendencies to kill. The press release about the series seemed to focus on the dark "comedy" aspect of the film, and less on how J.D. could become Dexter if given the chance. Again, that doesn't sound like it'll pass muster on a teen-friendly broadcast show, unless they decide to make J.D. supernatural and the whole set-up safely not of this world.

Overall, I just have a hard time figuring out how Jenny Bicks, who is known for her sexy, sassy writing, will actually be able to tackle this dry, dark material without making it look like a clone of every other mean teen dramedy out there. I fear that this TV version is doomed to fail, though if they do insist upon going forward with it, I hope that they find a way to make it so very.

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