Sweet/Vicious only enjoyed one season on MTV before it was canceled, much to the chagrin of its fans. At the ATX Television Festival today, EP Stacey Sher explained what happened.
“MTV took a really long time,” she said. “It killed us slowly and not so kindly, but they said to us, ‘If you can find a studio that will partner, we will go forward,’ which ultimately didn’t happen. We found four studios, and all we really need is a network now, and we’re still incredibly hopeful.”
“They’ve been very gracious,” Sher said of MTV, “and have said they’ll make it very easy for us, because they were very proud of the show and many people there cheerlead the show. They had a lot of regime changes, which was challenging.”
The show tackles the topic of campus rape, and features two lead female characters – Ophelia (Taylor Dearden) and Jules (Eliza Bennett) – who take vigilante action against the perpetrators of sexual assault.
Bennett, whose character is a sexual assault survivor, said the impact of the show has been immense, for herself and survivors with whom she spoke.
“I’m playing a sexual assault survivor,” she said, “so the most important thing was listening to people. That was hard, I get so emotional, because that’s when I found out that half of my friends had been raped and had never told anyone. That was so horrific. I would never have found that out unless we’d done the show.”
Said Sher, “The thing that was really extraordinary for me was I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve never had an experience at work where everybody making decisions was a woman.
“Not to take anything away from any of the men I’ve worked with–the wonderful men–but I think the way we approached the very difficult scenes, there was kind of a cocoon in knowing what it was like because we’ve all been vulnerable in that way.”
For creator Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, ensuring that male characters–even the perpetrators of assault–were fully-formed and complex was essential.
“Most people were going to come at this show saying things like, ‘Oh, it’s man-bashing,” she said. “They’re probably not going to watch it, but for people who do take the time to see what it is, we wanted to make sure that they knew that was not our message, because that does a huge disservice to survivors, and does a huge disservice to everything we’re building.”
In closing, Robinson said that shows “get cancelled for reasons that have literally nothing to do with the show. That is what happened here. Unfortunately, our show is about something extremely important, and the disconnect between the business and the heart sucks.”