Netflix has commissioned a reboot of beloved ’90s teen drama Heartbreak High, to be produced by Fremantle Australia and Dutch production company NewBe.
The eight-part series, to shoot in Sydney with the support of Screen NSW, will be inspired by the original but reimagined for today.
NewBe started shopping a contemporary remake at MIPCOM last year, after acquiring the rights from Brian Abel, partner of the late Ben Gannon, who created and produced the original. Fremantle was understood to be involved in March.
Production is expected to begin next year, with the show to premiere globally on the streamer in 2022. Fremantle Asia Pacific CEO Chris Oliver-Taylor and creative director, scripted content Carly Heaton will be the EPs, together with NewBe founder and CEO Jeroen Koopman and Tarik Traidia. Abel and Michael Jenkins, one of the original EPs, will be consultants on the series.
Set in Sydney’s fictional Hartley High School, the original Heartbreak High was known for its raw and honest depiction of themes such as racism, suicide, domestic violence, drugs, homelessness and teen pregnancy – and for cementing eyebrow piercings and rollerblading as cultural phenomena.
Produced by Gannon Television, it first premiered on Network Ten in 1994 and moved to the ABC three years later, ending in 1999. It proved an international hit, especially in Europe.
Heartbreak High itself was a spin-off of 1993 feature The Heartbreak Kid, directed by Jenkins and starring Alex Dimitriades and Claudia Karvan, which was in turn based on a 1988 stage play by Richard Barrett.
The series featured then relatively unknown names such as Callan Mulvey, Dimitriades, Ada Nicodemu, Doris Younane, Rebecca Smart, Tony Martin, Abi Tucker, Salvatore Coco, Kym Wilson, Scott Major and Emma Roche. There were also guest appearances by now international stars such as Simon Baker and Rose Byrne.
Among the series directors were Geoff Nottage, Karl Zwicky, Rowan Woods, Jessica Hobbs, Catherine Millar, Geoff Bennett, Ian Watson and the late Andrew Prowse, and the long roster of scribes included Tim Gooding, Lisa Hoppe, Kris Wyld, Kristen Dunphy, Vicki Madden, Elizabeth Coleman, Philip Dalkin and the late Tony Morphett.
In the 25 years since it aired, the show has enjoyed an enduring nostalgia – a Drazic (played by Mulvey) mural even appeared in Sydney’s Chippendale in time for Valentine’s Day this year.
All 210 episodes of the original started streaming on Netflix globally as of two weeks ago.
Netflix director of originals in Australia Que Minh Luu said: “We haven’t had a rebellious Australian YA series on screen since the original Heartbreak High, so this is well overdue. The new Heartbreak High is for young people in Australia today to feel seen – showcasing their stories, senses of humour and aesthetics to the world, and reminding everyone that they are much, much cooler than us.
“It’s also for the 90s kids, fans of the original series who remember what it’s like to feel understood by a TV show, then racking off. This Netflix show will be ours, and we can’t wait to get started.”
Oliver-Taylor and Heaton said: “We are delighted to work with our partners NewBe and Netflix to bring back such an iconic Australian series and take it global. We cannot wait to bring to Netflix audiences, young and old, a truly brilliant and unashamedly Australian reimagining of Heartbreak High.”
NewBe’s Koopman and Traidia said: “It’s been a thrilling ride from the start; from the first idea of bringing this childhood gem back to the screen to actually acquiring the remake rights from Brian Abel. It’s now up to us to determine how the story continues for the next gen, some 25 years later. We’re beyond excited and proud to have partnered with Fremantle Australia to make this reboot come to life on Netflix, and give young adults the same joy of watching as we had back in the day when we were kids.”