The cast of Heartbreak High (1994-99)
Heartbreak High (1994–99) Gannon Television Pty. Ltd.
Stories & Ideas

Tue 30 Nov 2021

ACMI Recommends: Heartbreak High (1994–99)

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Claudia Scalzi

Visitor Experience Guide

With the recent casting announcement of the Heartbreak High reboot, we take a look back at the iconic original series.

As a kid, I couldn’t wait to watch Heartbreak High. It aired every night on ABC3, and I never missed an episode. It was gritty, mature, funny and endearing, but most of all, familiar. The cast sounded and looked like me and my friends, and they were the epitome of cool; the peak of fashion and rebellion (even in the mid 2000s when I first came across the show). I wanted to be just like them, craziness and all.

Heartbreak High originally aired on television in 1994 – peak years for teen angst in popular culture – and ended its run in 1999. The series tackled heavier topics than its American counterparts (including the Canadian teen show Degrassi: The Next Generation), like racism, politics, drugs and sex. Watching these episodes during my formative years imparted lessons on me that I carried through to later life, such was the power of the show. I experienced my first crushes and close friendships and dealt with school bullies and family issues for the first time while watching Heartbreak High. It was a huge source of comfort.

Heartbreak High was always the last show to air on ABC3 because it was the most mature. With its coarse language and heavy themes, I felt like such an adult, such a high schooler, watching it. It was thrilling. Although I’m older and have stopped watching ABC3 religiously, I still look back on the quintessentially Australian show with fondness.

When I heard that Netflix are rebooting Heartbreak High, I was apprehensive. The latest incarnation will be one of Netflix’s first Australian originals, joining the streaming site’s already prolific slate of teen shows. Que Minh Luu, Netflix’s director of originals in Australia, has said they want the reboot to be "uniquely Australian… [reflecting] what it’s like to be a young person today". With this modernised take, we could end up with another Euphoria or Riverdale on our hands, but I’ll be intrigued to see how they retain the original show’s allure while creating something unique it its own right.

Netflix taking on such an iconic Aussie show will make it accessible to audiences worldwide. The original show was known for its diversity and fearlessness in tackling tough topics, and reflecting this in the reboot will be crucial, not only for its success, but to resonate with new and old audiences.

Netflix have a very good track record with their reboots and original shows for teens, so I have high hopes for this one. But if it falls short, a small part of me will be devastated.

– Claudia Scalzi

Watch all seven seasons of Heartbreak High on Netflix.

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