Amy Heckerling’s Clueless is more than just a great teen flick. It’s also one of the greatest American comedy of manners films of the past few decades. So why would a television network consider rebooting the film as a television series that drops both the comedy and the manners? Well, it looks like we may soon find out.
According to Deadline, CBS TV Studios is working on a potential series reboot of the 1995 film from writers Jordan Reddout and Gus Hickey that sounds more Riverdale and Euphoria mixed with Gone Girl than it does like anything resembling Clueless’s Jane Austen roots (the film was loosely based on the novel Emma). Oh, and most notably, the central character of Cher would be seemingly completely absent. Heckerling, herself, is also not involved behind-the-scenes (though she was involved in the brief ’90s sitcom spin-off that was part of ABC’s TGIF lineup). It should also be noted that this is a completely distinct reboot than another version previously rumored last year.
“It is described as a baby pink and bisexual blue-tinted, tiny sunglasses-wearing, oat milk latté and Adderall-fueled look at what happens when the high school Queen Bee (Cher) disappears and her life-long number two (Dionne) steps into Cher’s vacant Air Jordans,” reports Deadline. “How does Dionne deal with the pressures of being the new most popular girl in school, while also unraveling the mystery of what happened to her best friend, all in a setting that is uniquely 2020 LA?”
The series would also be a one-hour drama, instead of a 30 minute sitcom.
The CW, naturally, is reportedly very interested in the pitch (it’s a corporate cousin of CBS TV Studios after all), but several streaming networks are said to be interested as well. Though, will any fans of the actual original movie be interested in this version?
Giving the Twin Peaks-light dramatic reboot to existing intellectual property has been all the rage in teen TV since at least since the surprise success Riverdale, the TV show that gave clean-cut comic book icon Archie a set of six pack abs and problems like affairs with his teacher. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Nancy Drew, and Charmed are all on the air. Reboots of Gossip Girl, Lizzie McGuire, and even Grease are now in the works. Though, an attempt to bring Heathers, an already dark teen cult classic, not only flopped but proved needlessly controversial.
Clueless was a series that set pop culture trends, rather than followed them. So it kind of hurts to see the film re-purposed to follow trends both in network programming and teen culture (tiny sunglasses are so over they’re almost for the ensembly challenged at this point, and oat milk is now just a fact of life rather than a trend worth talking about).
Heckerling’s original also seemed particularly uninterested in framing Cher in the tired trope of “most popular girl in school” and it seems forced to place Dionne as her “number two.” Typical signifiers of popularity like prom queen campaigns, cheerleader tryouts, or student body elections are absent from the film. The one character who actually views popularity as a competition to win, Amber, exists to be the butt of the joke. Rather, Heckerling used the idea of “popularity” as an analogue to social class. Their popularity isn’t something they’ve achieved, but rather something they were born into and the pressures they face are the expectations to uphold that status not to chase after it. The film often gets compared to Mean Girls, but the two have very different takes on high school social life and popularity.
Amber’s social climbing is seen as a joker. Cher tries to elevate Tai to the status of “popular,” which only makes them both miserable. Dionne meanwhile just accepts that she’s popular, and the social indiscretion Cher chides her for (dating a high school boy) is something she doesn’t seem to worry about. Who watches the originals and sees Dionne as the character who would suddenly feel the pressure of being the “most popular girl in school?” It’s not clear that the original Dionne is any less popular than Cher to begin with after all. She’s the least likely to see it as a hierarchy. She’s a nice girl. She’d just be worried about her friend.
This may be a lot to read in to a short series description released by Deadline, but not a single word of that series description reads particularly true to the original.
Though, we suppose if they cast a few girls with Glossier skin, some boys with sculpted pecs, fill the soundtrack with a few catchy songs, and drape it all in bisexual lighting, the teens of today will probably watch an episode or two. We just think they deserve more.