If you were a teenager in Australia in the 90’s there’s a fairly good chance that you were a fan of iconic TV series Heartbreak High.
Additionally, if you were a teenager in Australia in the 90’s there’s an even better chance that you saw yourself represented in the show as it featured a multiracial cast intended to be a celebration of our country’s ethnic diversity.
The storylines were often edgy and intense, revolving around racism, sex, drugs, politics, socio-economic disparities and domestic violence, making it more a realistic portrayal of teen life than its soapy counterparts on commercial broadcast.
It was, as Que Minh Luu, Netflix’s director of originals in Australia says, a show that “meant something.”
Since November 27, subscribers have had the chance to revisit their youth with the complete original series landing on the streamer and now, a whole new generation of young adults can look forward to having their stories told in 2022.
Yep, Netflix has commissioned eight new episodes of the series to be filmed in NSW because, in the words of Luu: “We haven’t had a rebellious Australian YA series on-screen since the original Heartbreak High, so this is well overdue.”
Film and television remakes have become increasingly popular in recent years with Netflix seeing varying success from offerings such as Fuller House, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, The Baby-Sitters Club, and One Day at a Time.
Elsewhere, fans have been treated to updated versions of Veronica Mars, Will and Grace and can look forward to (the decidedly less relatable) teen drama, Gossip Girl.
Luu has explained that she wants the new version to have the “unwholesome and rebellious” feel its predecessor did, but with a modern-day spin.
“What we want to do is reflect what it’s like to be a young person today,” says Luu. “We want to do it in a way that is uniquely Australian, and that puts on display that Australian sense of humour, which is self-deprecating and freaking brutal, irreverent and often inappropriate at inappropriate times.”
If you’re thinking that reimagining a series known for diving into race issues is merely a case of virtue signalling in a year in which the Black Lives Matter movement abroad has forced us to examine our own disturbing relationship with racism, Luu is adamant that there is a much bigger picture.
“We want to make shows that make our Australian members feel seen…And from our point of view, things like honesty, diversity and maturity is base level. I don’t think that is necessarily aspirational for now. I think that’s just par for the course.”
So, in addition to examining the issues that were at the forefront of our collective consciousness in the 90’s through a contemporary lens, what do the new adversities facing Aussie youth look like?
Might we expect future storylines to centre around the negative side effects of social media? Or perhaps a response to the startling epidemic this country has seen when it comes to violence toward women? An arc in which the students of the new featured high school learn that the nation is going into lockdown in an attempt to fend off a devastating virus? Or maybe a call-to-action episode that sees a socially conscious group of teens galvanise to protest inequality and push for climate reform?
According to Luu, “We’ve only just started, but what I will say is that there is a recognition that this generation of young person is more active and socially conscious about those sorts of issues. And we would, of course, want to reflect that.”
The cast of the reboot has since been announced along with the following synopsis:
“The eight-episode series will reimagine the well-loved classic for a new generation, following Amerie (Ayesha Madon) after she becomes a pariah at Hartley High and has a public rift with her ride-or-die Harper (Asher Yasbincek).
“With the help of new friends Quinni (Chloe Hayden) and Darren (James Majoos), Amerie must repair her reputation, whilst navigating love, sex, and heartbreak along the way.”
Other local talents include Josh Heuston, Thomas Weatherall, Will McDonald, Gemma Chua-Tran, Rachel House, Chika Ikogwe, Sherry-Lee Watson, Bryn Chapman-Parish and Brodie Townsend.
The original and complete series of Heartbreak High is available to watch now on Netflix.