It was a time when baggy, oversized jeans were cool and a string of puka shells hung around every neck, and now Netflix is rebooting one of the other iconic exports of the 1990s: Heartbreak High.
A whole new generation of Australian teens will get to see their stories reflected onscreen in the gritty soap opera that ran between 1994 and 1999.
Netflix Australia’s director of originals Que Minh Luu said fans had waited long enough to revisit their favourite lovesick teens.
Netflix has commissioned a reboot of the much-loved Australian young adult series #HeartbreakHigh. Inspired by the original ‘90s series, but totally reimagined for a new generation, Heartbreak High will make its global debut on Netflix in 2022. pic.twitter.com/DxeoxTqZek
— Netflix ANZ (@NetflixANZ) December 6, 2020
“We haven’t had rebellious Australian [young adult] series on screen since the original Heartbreak High, so this is well overdue,” Ms Luu said.
“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.”
Senior lecturer in screen media at Victoria University Marc C-Scott said Netflix was “testing the waters” ahead of the new changes to Australian media content laws.
The proposed laws will mean streaming giants, like Netflix, will need to invest a percentage of their Australian revenue on local content.
“What’s helped is that they now have an Australian office, and that stands to show they do have some interest in our region,” Dr C-Scott told The New Daily.
“They’ll remove the quotas for commercial broadcasters – they have a quota for how much Australian content they must broadcast, and that’s around children’s content.
That younger generation is engaging through content, and they’re not doing it through traditional television – they’re doing it through streaming.
“They’re still watching television to some extent, but it’s the teen demographic, which sort of fits into that Heartbreak High era, that aren’t watching traditional broadcast television, they’re watching things like Netflix.”
Heartbreak High isn’t the only show from Down Under that has made the move to the popular streaming giant.
Cultural cringe …
Australian comedy sketch show, Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun has found a home at Netflix, but the creators said they had originally tried to shop it around Down Under to no avail.
The Aunty Donna comedy group, which found fame on YouTube with its ridiculous and hilarious comedy skits, said Australian producers wouldn’t give them the green light.
“I don’t think [Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun] would have flown purely because in Australia we have to be less risk averse,” Aunty Donna member, Mark Samual Bonanno, said on the The Green Room with Neil Griffiths podcast.
“Because there’s a smaller population, things have to be of a certain level to be successful and there’s not a lot of room unfortunately for niche.”
(Upon its release, Aunty Donna quickly leapt into the top-10 streamed shows on the platform.)
Another member of the group, Broden Kelly, said Australians need to “start watching good s–t”.
“I think the most successful show in Australia is Married At First Sight. Unfortunately, that’s what the case is,” Kelly said.
There’s some awesome comedy and drama made in Australia, but the amount of Australians that watch it relative to the rest of the world, is pretty, pretty small.
“There’s awesome creators out there and you should just take the time and effort to go and find them and watch their stuff.
“They’re out there and if you go find them, you’re gonna have an awesome time and you’ll be rewarded because they’ll be telling your Australian story. It’s not The Crown, it’s your story.
“We need to do a better job of supporting Australians who are doing good s–t. But also, networks need to say, ‘We have a responsibility to show Australia’ as well,” Kelly said.
Dr C-Scott also believes there should be an emphasis on Australian-focused storylines and narratives.
“[Australian narratives] should be important, particularly when we’re going into the idea of globalised media,” he said.
“With so many more streaming services coming on board particularly in Australia, we’re getting so much global content and the fear is, ‘How does that impact our Australian film and television industry’, but also, ‘How does it impact the Australian citizens for seeing themselves on screen?’
“We need to see it as the bigger picture … it’s not just about local, Australian content for local audiences, it’s about Australian content for a global audience.”