Scream Queens, Season 1 Episodes 1&2: “Pilot”; “Hell Week”

Image courtesy of Fox

Image courtesy of Fox

What’s going to happen in a Best Buy parking lot?

This quotation probably isn’t word for word, but it’s what I laughed the most at in the first two episodes of Scream Queens. It’s a reference to the podcast Serial, which you’ve probably listened to. I think Adnan was supposed to have called Jay from the Best Buy parking lot or something like that, I can’t remember exactly. It’s just telling that the thing I laughed at the most in this particular comedy-horror anthology series as a pop cultural reference. Scream Queens isn’t bad, and I’m intrigued enough to keep watching until the end of the season, but it has all the signs of a Ryan Murphy show that could go off the deep end at any point. I get that bitchy women is what Murphy, Brennan and Falchuck enjoy writing, but this is so over the top that it’s gone past the point of being funny. There is a lot of screaming though, so it lives up to its name. This post has spoilers I guess (it premiered nearly a week ago now), but I’ll try to keep them in the bullet points and be vague until then.

The first season of Scream Queens is set at a college sorority which is led by Queen Bee Chanel (Emma Roberts) who names her minions Chanel #2, etc. It’s Mean Girls on a whole new level, except you’d think that people would be over this kind of behaviour after they finished high school. As Jamie Lee Curtis’ Dean Munsch tells Chanel, this isn’t how people treat each other in real life. They don’t talk or act like real people, and sure I’ve never been to an American university, but I don’t relate to these people at all, and I’m a woman in my mid-twenties. You can’t get away with having your characters not be relatable in any way just because your show is a comedy. I never watch television and say “Oh, that’s me!”, but the shows that I like the most have characters with some element of their lives that I find relatable. Jane the Virgin, Parks and Recreation and the first season of Girls had that. Scream Queens doesn’t.

I am being harsh on this show, but Glee burned me really badly, so I’m hesitant to fall in love with another Ryan Murphy show. As I mentioned earlier, Scream Queens is a comedy-horror show, so people get killed by the school mascot (spoiler alert, but it’s been in all the ads) but there are also jokes? The show follows Chanel and Grace (Skyler Samuels), a college freshman who wants to join Kappa Kappa Tau because her mother was in the sorority when she was at college, and she died when Grace was young. Chanel has her minions, played by Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin whose talents are being wasted, Ariana Grande and Billie Lourd. We’re getting itno spoiler/plot territory now, so stop reading if you want to go in clean. I can say that I cautiously recommend Scream Queens – I’m still on the fence about it, but if you’re looking for an entertaining show, this isn’t a bad option.

[Just imagine that Joanna Robinson has made a really good spoiler warning GIF right here]

There’s a lot of exposition in the pilot, but it’s the first week of college, so Kappa Kappa Tau is looking for pledges and per Jamie Lee Curtis (definitely in the mould of Sue Sylvester but with a somewhat normal take on life in comparison), they have to accept anyone, not just conventionally pretty, preferably white ladies. Ariana Grande is in there because obviously she’s gorgeous and probably rich enough. In addition to Grace we have her roommate Zayday, Hester (Lea Michele, who is always great) dubbed by Chanel as “Neckbrace”, as well as the token lesbian and a poor girl known simply as “Deaf Taylor Swift”. Chanel’s first order of business is a hazing, and she’s going to pretend to deep-fry the maid’s face, but the fryer was on, so the maid pulled off her burning skin and died. Grace wants to call the campus police, like a normal person, but Chanel blackmails them all into hiding the body in the meat locker. Oh, and there’s a cute boy who works for the campus newspaper who wants to expose the sorority with Grace’s help. So he and Grace break into the meat locker before Chanel and her boyfriend go there to find something to do with the body, but she’s gone.

What ensues over the next 90 minutes is a number of murders by someone dressed in a red devil outfit: Ariana Grande, Nick Jonas and Niecy Nash’s partner who left the Best Buy parking lot where nothing ever happens. That’s a good place to stay! Oh, red devil dude also runs over “Deaf Taylor Swift” with a ride on mower at the end of the pilot – I bet they got that idea from Mad Men. What we learn at the end of “Hell Week” however is that Nick Jonas isn’t actually dead. If I had more energy or investment in this show I’d try to figure out why each of these people were targeted and whether or not they’re all dead, but I think I’m just going to go along for the ride.

There’s another mystery to the show as well. In 1995, a Kappa Kappa Tau sister (it’s Rose from Hart of Dixie! Why isn’t she in more of season 3?) gave birth in the bathtub during a party and died. Grace thinks that it’s connected to the current serial killer plot line, and she’s probably correct because this is a television show. What I don’t understand is that sure, the girl was dead when they came back, but she could have easily died in childbirth given that there were no medical professionals on the scene. Anyway. Grace gets it in her head that Pete (newspaper guy) is the right age to be that child – did we get his backstory? Grace is certainly jumping to conclusions, she never even asked if his mother died shortly after giving birth. Given that Wes (Grace’s dad) has a 1995 Power Ballads playlist, it could just as easily be Grace, which is where I think the season is headed, even if Grace should be a year too young to be the bathtub baby.

Other thoughts:

  • I really like Wes and his concern for Grace. Oliver Hudson has proven his strength as an actor to me, because he also played Jeff Fordham in Nashville.
  • As is typical with a Ryan Murphy show, there are way too many characters for me to remember all their names, so I’m really glad that Chanel has named her minions after her, even if I call two of them by their actors’ names.
  • Skyler Samuels looks like a young Kate Hudson.
  • I do love that the writers are having such fun with names. Chanel’s boyfriend is Chad Radwell, and there’s another guy in his fraternity named Earl Grey.
  • There’s some pretty great stuff on the official Scream Queens tumblr, which I’m currently trawling for a feature image. Don’t people make memes that aren’t gifs any more?
  • Lea Michele is great at comedy, which sometimes got lost on Glee, at least when I watched it, because Rachel Berry could be incredibly annoying. Also the singing really took priority.
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