There’s a new generation of Heathers, and they certainly don’t look like Mother Teresa.
The new red-band trailer for the Paramount Network’s Heathers reboot opens with some familiar images. There’s a croquet game and the famous red scrunchie that any fan of the 1988 film from Daniel Waters will recognize. From there, the trailer covers the major selling points one would expect: romance, cliques, and murder.
Heathers is inevitably seeped in nostalgia. Like Riverdale, or last year’s adaptation of It, or any number of other reboots, this show is already capitalizing on its source material being recognizable. Along with the familiar images, there’s also mention of the lunchtime poll within the first five seconds of the trailer.
These references might initially bring in viewers curious about how the beloved black comedy will adapt to TV in 2018, but nostalgia could actually hold the show back in other ways. The trailer is quick to inform us of the “killer cult classic” status of the original.
The problem is, something earns cult status over time as audiences grow to appreciate it. The TV show won’t possibly be able to gain the same reception instantly, so it shouldn’t try to. When this reboot overemphasizes the film as a cult classic, or delivers the same jokes, like the teaser trailer did in August with the iconic “fuck me gently with a chainsaw” line, it comes across as trying too hard to be compared to the film when it should be aiming to set itself apart.
What’s frustrating about relying on the film’s reception and legacy is that there is potential for this reboot to accomplish something interesting by breaking away from some of the core aspects of the movie.
One of the ways this Heathers differs is in its diverse cast. There’s now a plus-size Heather Chandler (Melanie Field), a genderqueer Heather Duke (Brendan Scannell), and an African-American lesbian Heather McNamara (Jasmine Mathews). These changes are a welcome update and really great to see from a new TV show in general.
However, the changes are also conveyed in the trailer mostly through jokes. There’s a line from one of the teachers about how “fat kids can be popular” and jokes questioning the popularity of Asians, genderqueer people, and “the gays and Jews.” Updating the cast to be more diverse is great, but not if it’s only for punch lines. Of course, a 10-episode season has more potential for nuance and development than a two-minute trailer, so it’s way too early to make a call on how the show treats its characters.
The trailer also offers a glimpse of Shannen Doherty, the original Heather Duke. Very little about her character is revealed and it’s unclear how exactly she’ll be involved with this new generation of Heathers, but according to showrunner Jason Micallef she will be in the first scene of the first episode and in three episodes total.
Micallef has said the plan is to have an anthology series. The first season will more closely resemble the original movie, but the following seasons will have different stories that capture the spirit of the film. This could help the show update its content and ensure it won’t lean too heavily on the nostalgia factor.
Heathers premieres on the Paramount Network on March 7th. We’ll discover then if this adaptation will find its own voice, embrace that it is a new show for a new generation and truly deliver something fresh, or just rely on the popularity of its source material to gain viewers.