Paramount Network‘s behind-the-scenes journey to get – and keep – Heathers on the air could be the basis for its own series – with the next chapter written this past weekend when the network pulled Sunday’s two episodes following the Saturday synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead. Though Saturday’s episodes aired as scheduled, Sunday’s episodes were removed from the schedule because they featured students going through an active shooter drill at their high school (though episodes are available through video on-demand and the network’s app and website). Monday’s edited finale will air as scheduled.
Originally set to premiere in March 2018 – with first episodes made available online prior – Heathers was pulled from the schedule out of respect to the victims, families and loved ones following the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead. The series was expected to premiere in July (though a new premiere date was never set), but was once again pulled due to the shooting in Santa Fe.
Paramount Network’s president of development and production Keith Cox spoke with The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year about the decision to shelve the series:
● On why the series was cancelled before its rumored July premiere:
“To be clear, I love this series and I believe in the franchise. It’s an anthology and was unique for us. The goal is not to scrap it but sell it. We shot this in November 2016 for TV Land. We’ve been working on this for a couple years. The cultural landscape has changed so fast. After Parkland, we as a company — which I applaud — we were in unison with the National School Walkout and went dark for 17 minutes [across all Viacom channels]. We were going to air and we paused that. It was the right thing to do — Viacom’s brands are youth brands. We have a unique relationship with youth and this movement after Parkland was so big and kept growing and we’ve been a partner in that. We were going to air in March and hit pause and then had Santa Fe.
We knew we were doing a very bold show that pushes boundaries. It’s a satire but it’s very bold. We knew that and then this movement happened and we as a company applauded that movement. This was a very difficult decision. We had multiple meetings, and in the end, we didn’t feel comfortable right now airing the series and I’m not sure when there might be a time that we as a youthful brand at Viacom would feel comfortable. That said, we are very diligently trying to sell this because we believe in the show.”
● On if the decision was based on the show’s content and if Viacom CEO Bob Bakish was the one who made the decision:
“We’re aware of the movie, which was done pre-Columbine. In the end, 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. The goal is to sell it and keep the franchise alive. We’ve had discussions with corporate people. But this is something we’ve all talked about. I love the show. 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. It’s hitting on so many hot topics. This company can’t be speaking out of both sides of its mouth, saying the youth movement is important for us and we’ve done all these wonderful things to support that and at the same time, we’re putting on a show that we’re not comfortable with. That would be in conflict.
We’ve had 20 meetings on this. We knew the show we were making, we made it two years ago. We were excited to go there with some of the bold topics. Even the movie was done at a time before the culture changed. We want to do risky and bold shows that push buttons and we will; it has to be great. Heathers was shot beautifully with a great cast and we’re proud of the show. It’s a high school show, it’s got elements that young kids today are aggressive in trying to change and we as a company are with them on that. We paused it once and we just don’t feel comfortable airing it.”