You folks don’t know this, because we’d only recently begun covering television in earnest, but I was a huge fan of Glee. I bought the soundtracks, I bought the seasons on DVD (this was before Netflix took over and ruined EVERYTHING), I bought the sing along videogames, I had a huge crush on series lead Lea Michele, and I even watched the short run reality competition The Glee Project on Oxygen. I ate the stuff up. Despite this, I knew it was terrible. I just liked the music.
That’s why I never quite gelled with American Horror Story or any of Ryan Murphy’s other works (like Nip/Tuck, The New Normal, or even Eat Pray Love). Murphy has never had a great grasp on story and relies on copious style to get his point across. But with Scream Queens, I fear the overall intent is muddled. But with its budget, cast, and appreciation of the horror genre, maybe this B-Grade show will be worth sticking with.
I’m not sure if Fox’s plan to premiere two episodes in a row was a good thing. When succumbed to that much of Murphy’s work at once, the cracks always show. It’s one of the rare cases where the pilot fared much better than the first episode of the series proper. For example, the show opens in a particularly interesting way as a girl (in 1995, no less) gives birth to a baby in a bathtub during a sorority (Kappa Kappa Tau) party. The other girls ignore her when TLC’s “Waterfalls” comes on, thus leading to her death and a mysterious cover up that’s sure to be one of the running threads throughout the series. It’s a pretty impressive hook for any pilot and perfectly captures the tone the Glee trio of Murphy/Falchuk/Brennan is looking for. It’s darkly humorous, creepy, informative of the show’s universe, and there’s a splash of pop culture reference. But other than one other scene which I’ll get to in a bit, it never quite reaches that height again.
There’s always been something that bothered me with Murphy’s work. Because he’s a marginalized individual, he’s always been okay with exploiting other margins in the sake of comedy. The same problems that have plagued his shows appear here as well. There are racial stereotypes (though I’m sure Keke Palmer is just playing Keke Palmer despite arguments otherwise), thickly laid homoeroticism that borders on the homophobic, and a “Queen Bee” character in Emma Roberts the trio uses as a funnel for every terrible (ultimately non-humorous) thing they could think of. But what separates Queens from a show like, let’s say, Scream, is that it doesn’t dwell on these characters and takes them seriously. It’s a show full of dumb caricatures making terrible choices, and we’re going to want to watch them get murdered week to week. From the looks of how much humor it can mine from gleefully killing its characters, I’m sure they’re be style in spades.
Just by watching these first two episodes, I’ve figured the modus operandi of Scream Queens is to revel in its quirk so much it won’t be bothered to actually develop any of its characters. There’s some surprising level of depth to Emma Roberts’ Chanel (which make the other Chanels look lacking in comparison), but if she’s expected to lead the series instead of the final girl archetype Grace (Skyler Samuels), I don’t know how much of her I can take. There are definite narrative nuggets to her character, so I hope I can chalk it up to growing pains. As for everyone else, Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Jonas are definitely the standouts. Curtis is basically playing Coach Sue Sylvester with a dark twist, and Jonas’ secretly gay-but-not-secretly gay Boone is full on cheese and it’s the best. But you know who gets the biggest scene? Ariana Grande. Not because of her acting or her character, but because a well crafted and staged scene that perfectly encapsulates the show’s potential.
Since Scream Queens is an homage to B-grade films, but still wants to poke fun at the current state of horror, we get this awesome scene where Chanel No. 2 is murdered by the series’ killer, the Red Devil, through text messages. It nets the biggest laugh and is oddly proactive as Chanel tries her best to tweet out her death. She isn’t just silently killed off into the night, but does her best to prevent it even when locked into a goofy sequence. The same can’t be said for the series’ next two deaths, but so far, each death sequence has been unique and pretty damn funny. Once you get past the show’s awkward writing, the rest of the package is great. It’s interesting enough that I’ve decided to talk about it for the next few weeks.
- Chad Radwell, the stereotypical rich jerk who’s cool with his best friend being gay, is by far my favorite character in the show thus far. I’m sure his death scene is going to be fantastic.
- Lea Michele’s Hester takes a maniacal turn in episode two and I’m not sure I like it yet.
- Abigail Breslin as Chanel No 5 hasn’t really made a name for herself yet. I thought she was the good girl who was just stuck in her terrible sorority, but her turn in the second episode proved that wrong.
- I’m also not sure what to think of Niecy Nash and Nasim Pedrad’s characters. They’re the wackiest characters in the show by far, but it’s too early to tell if that’s a good thing or not.
- At least this isn’t as bad as The New Normal was.
- Remember that VH1 reality show Scream Queens, where 8 actresses went through challenges in order to land a role in one of the Saw movies? That was a good time. They should do that again.