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The Viacom-owned cable network, which scrapped the high school-set series in June following multiple school shootings, has removed critical scenes from the series and will now marathon the reboot of the 1980s cult film over five nights around Halloween. The 10-episode drama has now been condensed to nine episodes and will air two hours a night starting Thursday, Oct. 25 and concluding Oct. 29, followed by a Heathers-themed episode of unscripted hit Lip Sync Battle featuring stars Melanie Field and Brendan Scannell.
The series will also be available on Paramount Network’s owned-and-operated websites and applications leading up to Halloween, starting Oct. 22. (Watch a new promo, below.)
Paramount Network scrapped the series and attempted to find a new domestic home for the series after the anthology was originally delayed from its planned March 7 premiere in a move designed to be respectful to the victims, families and loved ones following the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead. A new premiere date was never set, though sources noted the cabler considered an early July return before the Houston-area Santa Fe school shooting happened.
“This is a high school show, we’re blowing up the school, there are guns in the school, it’s a satire and there are moments of teachers having guns,” said Paramount Network president of development Keith Cox, who developed the show during his time at TV Land.
Sources say Paramount Network believed so strongly in the creative that the cabler nearly renewed the series for a second season weeks after Parkland. “The combination of a high school show with these very dark moments didn’t feel right,” Cox told The Hollywood Reporter in an exclusive interview in June.
Sources say executives at Paramount Network were frustrated by the inability to find a domestic home for Heathers. (Netflix and Freeform, among others, passed on the series, which sold to multiple international territories.) Instead, two specific scenes were edited out from the original series that cleared the way for it to be broadcast after all. The final two episodes, for example, were condensed into one featuring a cliffhanger after a storyline in which the school was blown up was removed. (The original movie ends with the school also being blown up.) Also gone is a scene in episode five that featured a central character playing a video game in which he went on a shooting rampage down the school’s hallways, killing multiple people. Sources say editing the original 10 episodes was not part of the June conversations to drop Heathers as the plan at the time was to sell the series to a third party so it could air as it was originally shot.
“We didn’t want to butcher the show or make it something that it’s not, which isn’t fair to the writers, producers and cast,” Cox told THR in June.
Newcomers James Scully and Grace Victoria Cox star as J.D. and Veronica, the roles originally played by Christian Slater and Winona Ryder in the 1988 pic. Jasmine Mathews, Scannell and Field starred as the three Heathers. Original Heathers star Shannen Doherty guest-stars in the pilot, which was directed by Leslye Headland and written by showrunner Jason Micallef. The Heathers-themed Lip Sync Battle was filmed nearly a year ago during a launch party for Paramount Network.
Should the Heathers marathon prove successful, it’s unclear what would become of the franchise. As of June, Cox said the writers had almost completed development on season two and the initial plan was to package that with the first season of the anthology. Options on the cast also have expired, with Field recently booking a series regular role on Pop’s 10-episode comedy Florida Girls.
Paramount Network, rebranded from Spike TV in January, has had a rough first year. Viacom’s general entertainment cable network launched with TV Land imports American Woman and Nobodies, both of which were canceled after their first cycle on Paramount Network. Yellowstone, the Kevin Kay-led cabler’s first scripted original that was developed specifically for Paramount Network, has been renewed. TV Land favorite Younger will move over to Paramount Network, where it will join fellow Darren Star entry Emily in Paris and a reboot of First Wives Club.
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