heathers tv show review

(This review was written before the Paramount Network made the decision to delay the premiere of Heathers until later this year. As the pilot episode is still available on the network’s site, we have made the decision to run the review.)

Michael Lehmann’s 1988 high school masterpiece Heathers, with a laser-sharp script by Daniel Waters, is ripe with poppy bon mots that still feel devilishly revolutionary, one of those rare late-decade gems that transcends its era while remaining appropriately of-the-time. The movie follows a clique of nasty high school girls – all named Heather – who terrorize their peers, challenging them to lunchroom dares, getting away with their own sort of mean girl terrorism. They’re flanked by a newbie to the group, Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder), who seems both appreciative of her newfound status, and cautiously cynical of its effect on her morality. The Heathers and Veronica speak in a referential pop culture code that modern imitators – from Diablo Cody to Ryan Murphy – have helped solidify as Hollywood “teen speak.” The lines drip with irony and humor, but remain unparalleled in originally. This is the film that first asked “what’s your damage?” That told us to “fuck me gently with a chainsaw.” It also popularized the descriptor “how very.”

Heathers has always seemed an untouchable entity in the pantheon of ‘80s classics. Post-Columbine, how do you remake a movie where teen-on-teen violence is funny? The original is, after all, all about Veronica and her sociopathic boyfriend J.D. (Christian Slater) murdering their classmates then framing their deaths as suicide. In one early scene, J.D. pulls a gun on two students. Later, he and Veronica shoot and kill two jocks and write a suicide note that erroneously outs them as gay lovers. The finale of Heathers has Veronica trapping J.D. in the school and blowing up the gymnasium – and him – with a bomb. That content was ghoulishly appropriate in the ‘80s. But in an era where school gun violence is a weekly occurrence, it doesn’t have the same critical bite.

Which brings us to the Paramount Network’s new anthology adaptation of Heathers, a series hitting airwaves at the exact wrong time, just a few weeks after one of the deadliest school shootings in history.

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The already-controversial Heathers TV show has been delayed in the wake of the Parkland school shooting. The Paramount Network series was set to debut next week, but will now air at a later, undetermined date.

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