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Everything Paramount could be doing to save ‘Heathers’

The Paramount Network delays Heathers premiere date

By now, you’ve likely read every hot take in existence about the Paramount Network’s TV reboot of Heathers. As well as being described as “a pale imitation” of the 1988 movie starring Winona Ryder (Stranger Things) and Christian Slater (Mr. Robot), Heathers (2018) has also been called “a hateful, bigoted exercise in regression” with suggestions it could become a cult classic “for the alt-right.” The outpouring of hatred for the show was savage long before its originally scheduled premiere date of March 7.

On Thursday however, the Paramount Network released a statement announcing the show’s premiere will now be delayed. Insisting, “We stand firmly behind the show,” the statement revealed: “In light of the recent tragic events in Florida and out of respect for the victims, their families and loved ones, we feel the right thing to do is delay the premiere until later this year.”

The general consensus on Twitter from those less than happy about the remake is “The Heathers reboot should be delayed forever,” and “Why don’t you just cancel the whole thing instead? It’s pretty clear nobody wanted this to begin with.”

Showing respect or saving face?

Paramount Network's reboot of 'Heathers'

On the one hand, it’s understandable that Paramount Network would want to pull Heathers in light of the recent Parkland school shooting where a former student gunned down 17 people.

As they acknowledge in the statement, though Heathers is intended to be “a satirical comedy” taking “creative risks with challenging subjects” which include “gun violence”, right now might not be the best time for it – particularly when critics have been so vehemently panning the show for its apparently muddled approach to satire.

On the other hand, it’s worth noting it took the Paramount Network two weeks since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to make the decision to delay the premiere. Within that time, critics have sampled the show ahead of its release and damned it right across the internet. Could the delayed release of the show be more of an exercise in self-preservation than a show of respect during challenging times?

Recent attempts at damage control

Paramount Network's reboot of 'Heathers'

Amid the recent heaps of criticism Heathers has received, there have been some minor, and extremely defensive, attempts at damage control. When the first full trailer for the show was released in January, it was immediately met with boos and jeers, the social-media equivalent of rotten-fruit projectiles.

Fans of the original movie appeared upset by the reboot’s lampooning of identity politics and how marginalized characters were made the apparent villains of the story. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Jason Micallef responded, “I don’t view the Heathers as the villains . . . . The three Heathers are incredibly powerful and ruling the school; they’re the people you would want to be.”

Micallef further explained, “Because it’s a TV show, we have so much more time to explore their characters and get behind it,” and, rather optimistically, added, “Of course, no one’s seen the show yet. Once they see it, I think they’ll get what we’re talking about.” Unfortunately for Micallef, they didn’t.

Critical responses to the show have been negative to say the least, with one particularly damning review of Heathers from The Daily Beast arguing the show is “a Trumpian, LGBT-Bashing Nightmare.” The review takes particular aim at the way in which adults on the show gleefully misgender characters and adopt churlish stances regarding identity politics.

On Twitter, Micallef fired back against the review, “We get a lot of dumb ‘hot takes’ but this one takes the cake. I think I speak for the mostly queer staff when I say ‘YOU KNOW YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO THINK THE ADULTS/TEACHERS ARE IDIOTS, RIGHT???’”

What’s next for Heathers?

Paramount Network's reboot of 'Heathers'

One of the few positive takes on the show was courtesy of Daniel Waters, screenwriter of the original 1988 movie. On Facebook he revealed, “Okay, Episode 1 is the Mad Libs parlor game version of the movie we feared . . . but it ends well.”

Ultimately, he confessed, “I liked it!” but warned, “The further the show moves away from the film, the better.” Perhaps Waters might deign to provide some additional consultation and feedback on the new Heathers just to save the show from further ruin.

Paramount Network is still yet to announce a rescheduled premiere date for the show. Just how long will they need to wait for Heathers not to be insensitive to current social issues? Heathers needs to reemerge at some point this year, and unless they manage to make some show-saving edits before then, it will likely draw just as much ire as now. Maybe Paramount Network should just keep digging that hole of theirs and bury the new Heathers reboot in it for good.

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