Jan 13, 2016

[TV] Scream Queens: Season 1

I wasn't quite sure what to make of Scream Queens when it first came out. After investing in shows like Glee and American Horror Story, it was already clear to me that the creative team that is Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk can be more than a little crazy. Their shows tend to involve a lot of strange, out of left field sort of plots twists on a regular basis with a mad scramble to keep things coherent every few episodes. This can make for great entertainment or rather desperate efforts attempting to find meaning.

As much as we had quickly quit Glee after a few seasons, we're still invested in some of their other efforts and we were curious to see what he would do with a show of this nature. And what we got was an interesting celebration of camp, old horror movies and quirky comedy in a unique package.

And campy humor can be tricky since a lot of times it just turns people off who associate the more complex with somehow being automatically better. But it's hard to achieve the right balance for good campy comedy, as I've stated repeatedly on this blog, but I think they were closer to being right than wrong this time around.

Synopsis: Scream Queens is an American horror black comedy series created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan all of Glee fame. The first season ran for 13 hour-long episodes.

The series starts in 1995 at the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority house, where a pledge dies in childbirth while in a bathtub. Fast-forward to the present and we meet Grace (Skyler Samuels), who is determined to join Kappa Kappa Tau to honor her mother, who was once a member. However the sorority is now run by the ruthless and cruel Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts), and thus Dean Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) is determined to shut them down. But things become strange at the Kappa Kappa Tau house as people start to die and a figure in a red devil is often seen at the crime scenes. As it becomes clear that there's a serial killer on the loose, the girls attempt to do something about it in their own roundabout way as many of the killers seem to be tied to the sorority one way or another.

First, the decision to cast Jamie Lee Curtis in this series truly justifies the title "Scream Queens" given her early work in horror movies. This sort of self-aware, tongue-in-cheek humor is what defines the series really and thus you can justify supporting characters like campus security Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash). Just look at the early death of one of the Chanels involving her live-tweeting her death, which is just crazy and yet brilliant at the same time.

And from a guilty indulgence perspective, we really enjoyed Nick Jonas as a guest star in several episodes. They really made the most of his role in current pop culture as, well, some darn fine eye candy. And you can tell the writers really wanted to milk this aspect of his pubic personality.

Admitted I could never really wrap my head around Grace as a lead character. She wasn't all that amazing in this show. If anything she was brilliantly overshadowed by almost everyone else in the case, especially when it comes to the various Chanels.

The Chanels are something else. Sure it initially felt like Emma Roberts was merely reprising her role Madison from American Horror Story: Coven. But even though they took things to the point of caricature (she only eats cotton dabs of sauce after all), it all worked out quite amazingly. And her supporting Chanels were all quite hilarious as well, and this includes Ariana Grande's cameo but most especially Billie Lourd as the constantly ear-muffed Chanel #3 and eventually Chanel #6 as played by Lea Michelle. Yes, Lea Michelle's intense brand of crazy actually felt even more at home with this show than in Glee.

The central mystery of the show was a little annoying since it wasn't the sort of well-crafted mystery that a viewer could solve for themselves given subtle clues woven into the narrative. Instead we had to rely on the usual out-of-no-where sort of plot twists to justify things. But that's just how this creative team works. But it's the same source of the zany comedy and so it all sort of balances out.

Scream Queens is pretty light fare but it's good fun when you need it. It's a nice celebration of campy horror movies and cheesy acting made into a regular TV series. Thus the debut season gets 4 crazy ways to die out of a possible 5.


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