Wednesday, August 05, 2015
[You know the drill, and I will continue to mention it in each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews may be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show: "Scream Queens" (FOX)
The Pitch: "Ryan Murphy's Harper's Island"
Quick Response: The suspicion that FOX was hiding "Scream Queens" for critics (despite airing the full pilot at Comic-Con last month) proves pleasantly unfounded with Ryan Murphy's latest, which comes across as a much more effective effort at what MTV is failing with on "Scream." With the full "Glee" team -- Murphy (directing as well), Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk -- reuniting, it's no surprise that "Scream Queens" is much lighter on its feet than "American Horror Story," a bit less self-consciously perverse and envelope-edge-pushing. More "gross" than "scary" or "genuinely disturbing," "Scream Queens" is full of out-sized performances from actors, women mostly, who seem to be having a lot of fun, which has always been the thing the Ryan Murphy Factory produced most effectively. Emma Roberts commits maniacally to playing the ultimate mean girl and Jamie Lee Curtis has a long-absence twinkle in her eye as a fraternity-hating dean. I've been convinced that Skyler Samuels was headed for a certain level of stardom since I was one of a dozen people depressed by the demise of "Chloe King" and she's nicely used as the "good girl" here. It's also notable that usually personality-free Diego Boneta, previously elevated to the status of place-holder leading man without any credentials, finds his calling as a Ryan Murphy mannequin, as does Nick Jonas (and I suspect Oliver Hudson will eventually join them in usefulness, though it hasn't happened yet... but this is just my gut feeling). There are several other little fun supporting performances, though don't expect much from Ariana Grande, whose capacity here won't surprise you and whose presence here has barely been capitalized upon. The writers do catty bickering well and there are some moments of verbal hair-pulling and face-scratching that made me chuckle and a couple bits of stylized violence that are played with a wink, a nudge and a vat of fake blood. Parts of "Scream Queens" grate, but that's not unexpected in a Ryan Murphy-ish way, especially his trademark inclusive ghoulishness, where he takes a demographically underrepresented character -- The obese maid! The deaf sorority pledge! -- and does a "I'm being sympathetic" feint before "But not too sympathetic!" grotesquerie. But mostly, I reacted more positively to "Scream Queens" than most of Murphy's work, perhaps because it's astoundingly devoid of anything self-important. It's a snarky, fast-moving college murder romp that isn't trying to be trickier or more audacious than it is.
Desire To Watch Again: Sure. Why not. Count me in for this one, at least for a while. It'll go south. They always do. But maybe it won't go south until Season 2?
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