FOX is developing a television remake-slash-update of the 1989 cult classic “Heathers.” If I may appropriate what the movie’s fictional band Big Fun said about teenage suicide: Don’t do it.
Let’s leave aside the fact that remakes — either of imported properties or old American movies and TV shows — generally don’t work. Even if that weren’t the case, the open-ended nature of a TV series really doesn’t seem like a good fit for the story of “Heathers.”
I’ll admit that I’m coming at this story (which Variety reported Thursday) not at all objectively. “Heathers” is probably my favorite high-school movie of all time, and it has held up remarkably well over 20 years. As a fan, I don’t see any need to mess with it.
I also don’t think, though, that “Heathers” lends itself to adaptation for TV. Here’s why:
Structure. The movie, written by Daniel Waters and directed by Michael Lehmann, has almost no dead air — which helps an audience get behind the idea of Veronica (Winona Ryder) and her nihilistic-but-sexy boyfriend J.D. (Christian Slater) literally knocking off the Heathers in the name of overthrowing their tyrannical reign at Westerburg High.
A TV series would by necessity have to stretch things out — we probably wouldn’t see one of the title characters getting bumped off in the first half-hour. Or if we did, the show would have lots and lots of time fill leading up to the next big event.
Tone. “Heathers” is a dark, dark comedy — half the jokes, at least, in the film are the kind that elicit “Ha-ha-ha-oh man” sorts of laughs. That can work brilliantly over the couple of hours it takes to watch a movie, but sustaining that level of black humor without turning off the audience is exceedingly difficult over the course of 13, 22 or more episodes. I can imagine that there would be almost inevitable network pressure to brighten things up a little.
Character. One of the great things about TV is that, unlike movies, it can take the time to explore multiple facets of a character’s personality. In the case of “Heathers,” though, that might almost be a detriment. One of the central jokes of the movie is that Heather Chandler, the first one Veronica and J.D. bump off, was completely unsympathetic and only acquired depth after she died. Keeping her alive for several episodes of a series would either be really tiresome because she’s so shallow or end up possibly making her sympathetic and undermining the idea that the world would be better off without her.
You’ve listened to me rant, but what’s your take? Does a “Heathers” remake sound like a good idea to you? Vote in the poll below and sound off in the comments.
Follow Zap2it on Twitter for the latest TV, movie and celebrity news.