The audience is introduced to the resident mean girls on campus, the sisters of Kappa Kappa Tau, led by their queen, Chanel. After the dean forces KKT to open their rush process to all students, the girls start being murdered one by one by a mysterious serial killer in a red devil costume.
“Good morning, sluts.”
Ryan Murphy is back, this time combining the two things he’s demonstrated he can write adequately: horror and comedy.
The problem with Murphy is (among other things), that he starts his shows very strong, but somehow they end up careening out of control into the ridiculous (Glee) or the psychosexually uncomfortable (AHS). Either way, a Murphy show is all but guaranteed to have a strong first season followed by an unwatchable second or third.
Scream Queens follows the sorority sisters of Kappa Kappa Tau as they are targeted by a campus serial killer. After the new dean (Jamie Lee Curtis) decides to target Greek life on campus, she mandates that Kappa house has to accept all pledges. The head bitch-in-charge, queen Chanel (played by Emma Roberts, who I somehow still love even after the tragedies that were Unfabulous and Nancy Drew), isn’t having any of it.
Commence hell week.
Most of the first episode is spent with Chanel and her minions (Chanels 2-4) hazing their less-than-Kappa-perfect pledges, including an unrecognizable neck-braced Lea Michele, a candle vlogger, and a deaf knock-off of Taylor Swift. Chanel’s first order of business is to scare the pledges away from the rush process.
She and the housekeeper (“White Mammy”) come up with a plan for Chanel to dunk the housekeeper’s face into cold fryer oil and feign burns to scare off the pledges. When they execute the plan, Chanel finds that the oil in the fryer was hot and the housekeeper’s face melts off before she dies on the kitchen floor. Stunned, Chanel orders her minions to roll the body in a duvet and put her in the freezer.
Afterward, she swears the rest of the sisters to silence – and returns later with her boyfriend to the freezer to find the body is missing.
At the end of the pilot episode, one of the knockoff Chanels (Ariana Grande) is stabbed to death by a person in a red devil costume. After a wordless text conversation between her and her murderer, she dramatically falls silently to the floor, managing to send one last tweet begging for help as she’s stabbed to death.
Let’s be real. We all knew that no show was going to be able to keep Ariana Grande on payroll for very long- especially with her concert touring schedule. #NotSurprised
The majority of the story plays on tired horror tropes, the most annoying of which centers around the sweet-faced ingenue who joined the house to connect with the mother she lost when she was young #yawn and her plot to bring down the Chanels #doubleyawn.
Upsides: the cast is star-studded. From Nick Jonas (everyone stopped caring about Joe when he put a ring on his finger and faded into obscurity, anyway) to Abigail Breslin, the actors are A-list celebrities.
Also, the dialogue is sharp and the insults Chanel slings deserve to be cross stitched on pillows and displayed in museums they’re so magnificent.
Downsides: The least interesting part of this show is the murder mystery, and that’s supposed to be the crux of the series. The horror is a grotesque, bubblegum face-melty sideshow, and the comedy and meanness of the Chanels carries the show. Also there’s no singing.
Verdict: It’s the Ryan Murphy curse. Give it half a season, and if the sparks aren’t flying, in Chanel’s words, cut these idiot hookers loose.