The series was originally slated to air in March, but the premiere was pushed back following the deadly shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school, where 17 people were killed. As in the film, a dark, satirical teen comedy, the series featured prominent scenes dealing with suicide and gun violence. The series also included its own spin on a bombing scene that was prominent in the movie. The description for one of the episodes that was pulled Sunday references an active shooter drill.
After the show’s initial March delay, the Viacom-owned network said in a statement that it stood “firmly behind the show” but felt it was best to delay the premiere “in light of the recent tragic events in Florida and out of respect for the victims.” The statement called the series “a satirical comedy that takes creative risks in dealing with many of society’s most challenging subjects ranging from personal identity to race and socio-economic status to gun violence.”
“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,” Cox told the outlet. “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.”
In July, THR reported that the show had been successfully sold internationally but struggled to get buy-in from other U.S. networks, including Netflix and the ABC-owned Freeform.
But this month, Paramount Network announced that the series would air after all, as a week-long marathon ahead of Halloween, with some major changes. According to THR, two scenes — including one in which the school was blown up — were removed, and the last two episodes (the ninth and 10th) were condensed into the finale. “I wish fans could see the 10th episode, but the producers and I felt strongly about not changing anything in it, and so, it’s been considered too controversial for U.S. audiences,” Jason Micallef, the show’s creator and showrunner, told the outlet.
The show got largely unfavorable reviews. One notable exception was the New Yorker’s Troy Patterson, who called the series “painfully sharp in its portrayal of the way grief is performed on social media and I.R.L.” But Patterson lamented the edits to the show’s final episode.
“The network has toned down the finale by cutting the prom-bombing climax and replacing it with nothing much,” Patterson wrote. “The show fizzles in the home stretch, but it is easy to imagine a showrunner’s cut of ‘Heathers’ that fills it out as a pop-surrealist masterpiece.”
Episodes 7 and 8 would have aired on Sunday ahead of Monday’s finale. Micallef noted on his Instagram account that those episodes were available to watch on the Paramount Network website, though he said viewers would not be able to see show’s true finale, the 10th episode. He also made a pointed apology to fans “for all the drama.”
“We simply make the donuts and don’t really have any say in how the donut store is run. And unfortunately, sometimes donut stores are run poorly,” he wrote. “But once you get home, the bad experience with the weird dudes who run the donut store will quickly fade away because no [one] really cares about them and all that’s left is the delicious donut! So thanks for finding the episodes!”