Sunday, March 13, 2016

Review: Scream Queens Season 1

Title: Scream Queens Season 1
Starring: Emma Roberts, Skyler Samuels, Lea Michele
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Episodes: 16

Around the same time MTV released Scream TV Series, Ryan Murphy put out his latest project in Scream Queens. I was open minded to the project, but I couldn't help but think of the VH1 reality show of the same name looking for actresses to star in the upcoming Saw movies at the time. I'm pretty sure not that many people remember that at all.

Wallace University is rocked by a string of murders. Kappa House, the most sought-after sorority for pledges, is ruled with an iron fist (in a pink glove) by its Queen Bitch, Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts). But when anti-Kappa Dean Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) decrees that sorority pledging must be open to all students, and not just the school's silver-spooned elite, all hell is about to break loose, as a devil-clad killer begins wreaking havoc, claiming one victim, one episode at a time. Part black comedy, part slasher flick, SCREAM QUEENS is a modern take on the classic whodunit, in which every character has a motive for murder... Or could easily be the next blood-soaked casualty. [Source: IMDb]

Going into this show, I didn't have any high expectations because 1) it's Ryan Murphy, 2) Emma Roberts is still trying to be the bitchy, diva character, and 3) Ryan Murphy. As much as I have conflict with the man, mostly through the span of the American Horror Story franchise, I can't help but be curious on how badly he'll screw up a great idea. Of course, I have to stick to my usual formula when it comes to reviews and talk about the positives of the show. It's hard to admit, but I actually did enjoy a handful of characters. Granted the bad ones tend to overshadow the good ones a lot of the time and it made it hard to watch portions of the show, but the ones I did like, I enjoyed seeing them interact and figure certain situations on screen. Skyler Samuels as Grace, the main character, brought some intelligence to this whodunit mystery. Even though her character flip flopped on a few tiny issues, I just assume it was for plot convenience or whatever stupid thing the plot needed. She was a fun character with a good head on her shoulders and I wish there was more of her than Emma Roberts. Keke Palmer as Zayday brought a lot of meta humor and bluntness to the show. I liked her bond and friendship with Grace and she nailed every joke that came out of her mouth. Niecy Nash as Denise Hemphill also brought some great, over the top comedy to her character that reminded me a little of Scream's Officer Dewey. While I admit she can be loud and obnoxious [I blame typecasting], she had me laughing and shaking my head in a good way with her attitude and fun spirit. Of course, Jamie Lee Curtis knocked it out of the park with her character Dean Munsch. She had great comedic timing and delivered a strong female front. Pretty much, she could've taken anyone down with her ninja skills, hidden strength, and high tolerance for pain, cold, and anything else you can throw at her. Lastly, I did enjoy some of the smaller characters as well such as Pete, Chanel #5, Chanel #3, and Sam. Also, Ariana Grande and Nick Jonas weren't that bad either, although I preferred Grande's performance more than Jonas's.

Other things I enjoyed about the show was the whodunit aspect, which was more interesting in this show than Scream TV Series. Pretty much, Scream Queens did a better job doing Scream than MTV's bland attempt. The show seemed to reflect the meta aspects more, but also poked fun of them, giving some mostly comedic moments. Not every gag and gimmick landed, but generally it usually was a hit for me, but I give credit to the actors for the good time and effective delivery. It was also fun to see the characters figure out the killer and for once, I didn't feel obligated to play this guessing game. Probably because it wasn't a serious horror show or...I don't know Scream TV Series.

Now for the (probably) expected negatives of the show. Once again starting with the characters, there were plenty of enjoyable and fun characters, which I've listed previously. Unfortunately, a couple or so of the annoying ones tended to get more screen time than the ones I liked, excluding Dean Munsch. The character that grated on my nerves the most was Chanel Oberlin played by Emma Roberts. I've had consistent problems with her character choices post-Unfabulous [it's a Nickelodeon show I'm sure not too many people remember], through her bitchy, diva behavior in Scream 4, American Horror Story: Coven, and a little bit in American Horror Story: Freakshow, but she was more forgettable in that one. I'll probably say this time and time again, but these sorts of characters do not suit Roberts' range at all. It just seems forced and obnoxious and you end up hating her because she's not good at acting out these sorts of characteristics well. The other annoying character I wished died with Chanel was her on again, off again boyfriend Chad played by Glen Powell. I'm almost certain that this character was supposed to be obnoxious with his snotty frat boy expectations, ridiculously low IQ, and caveman logical/ideals (i.e. wanting to sleep with every woman because that's what men do), but it was so exaggerated to the point that he wasn't anywhere close to funny. The poorly executed homoerotic jokes didn't help either. Every time I had to watch Chad and Chanel interact, I groaned and hoped by some miracle that they'd both be axed off at the same time. Lea Michele as Hester was the last on my list of annoying characters. She didn't quite grate on my nerves as much as Chanel and Chad, but I just didn't understand her over the top, obsessive craziness. I can't really go too deep into this flaw as it would spoil certain parts in the show. I'm not looking forward to what she has planned in season two (spoiler :P). Now back to Zayday. No, I didn't find her obnoxious like these other three characters. I mean re-read the previous paragraph. Really my complaint about Zayday has nothing to do with the actress, but the writing for her and even Officer Hemphill which is just so blatantly stereotypical and not in a satirical way like the horror elements in this show. The show does mock the horror genre and execute certain things in a cheesy manner, but the writing for these two characters are inexcusable. The actresses' personalities do shine through and make them enjoyable from episode to episode, but some of the writing choices make you groan at how obvious a non-POC wrote it. Writing 101: Not every black person (or POC) has to talk in this weird stereotypical "language". This flaw didn't quite offend me so much as irritate me at how poorly written it was.

Moving on from the characters to the story. It was fun and entertaining, but certain parts did seem like they went on way longer than necessary. I guess this would be another writing problem or something, I'm not even sure anymore. Anyway, these scenes mostly felt like a gag or gimmick going on for too long. It's like if someone ran into a door on their first date. It's funny the first time, but imagining if that happened for ten minutes straight and the characters kept bringing it up and laughing about it. It loses its comedic value. That's what this show does, especially when it comes to the Chanels and the killer. It's funny, but it gets old really fast.

For the most part, the first season of Screams Queens was fun and entertaining. It left a more satisfying mockery of the horror genre tropes than MTV's Scream TV Series. Every week, I looked more forward to this show than the other, because it did Scream better justice than its own show, which is kinda sad. On the other hand, I dreaded having to deal with annoying main characters for long periods of time. Also the extended jokes and poor writing were very bothersome and should be out of date. Really it's your typical Ryan Murphy annoyances that shouldn't surprise you that exist in this show. I'm not looking forward to the second season, but I am curious what they're going to do, especially when the killer is already exposed.

Rating: 2.5/5

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