by NICK BUCHANAN
Last Tuesday marked the debut of a new line of fall television shows. Fox has been hard at work, plugging its new comedy-horror series Scream Queens for the past few months. The show has gained a lot of traction virally but turned out only modest viewership ratings during its premiere. Popularity and numbers aside, though, how does the show fare in terms of quality?
Honestly, pretty well.
Spoiler alert: If you have not watched Scream Queens yet and don’t want any details revealed, do not click the “Read More” option.
The projects boasts the handiwork of Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan, who are known for their work on American Horror Story, Nip/Tuck, and Glee. The combination of their powers results in a show that sits in the unexpected intersection of American Horror Story, Mean Girls, and Clueless.
In the opening scene, we are taken back to a 1995 sorority house party at Wallace University. Just before the sisters hit the dance floor, they are shocked to find that a new pledge has endured a bloody birth in their bathtub. Not to be bothered by the medical emergency, they leave the girl alone to dance to their favorite song. (“I am not missing 'Waterfalls' for this. 'Waterfalls' is my jam.”) When they come back to the new mother, she sits dead from blood loss.
Flash forward 20 years, and we’re introduced to the current president of the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority, Chanel (Emma Roberts), and her loyal minions: Chanel #2 (Ariana Grande), Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd), and Chanel #5 (Abigail Breslin). There was a Chanel #4, but she went home last semester and totally died of meningitis or something, but it’s like whatever.
Like a next-generation Regina George, she rules her followers with an attitude and an iron fist. With one stern glance, she forces Chanel #5 to slap herself in the face after entering Master Chanel’s closet without asking. Literally, how dare you, #5? (Her rich daddy’s high financial stakes in the university don’t hurt her reputation or power, either.)
All is fine and dandy for her until Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) reveals her vendetta for Kappa Kappa Tau and its leader: “I hate sororities and I hate you.” To ruin Chanel’s reign, the new dean rules that all new pledges must be accepted, including a strange candle vlogger and girls who have been code-named Neckbrace, Deaf Taylor Swift, and Predatory Lez. Also among the pledges are Grace (Skyler Samuels) and Zayday (Keke Palmer), who turn out to be our underdogs (and the only two normal girls of the gang).
Within the first two episodes, the house is shaken by a line of murders: one done by Chanel and the rest carried out by a person dressed in the school’s cheap devil mascot costume (also known as 'the Red Devil'). Chanel, planning to play a prank to scare away the new sisters, pushes the sorority house maid’s head into a fryer in the kitchen. It would have been a great prank… if the fryer hadn’t been turn on and hot. Ouch. She throws the maid’s body in a freezer and blackmails the girls for their secrecy: “Who will back up my story if I promise that by the end of the year, I'll get you all boyfriends? Cool boyfriends. And I'll take you all on my dad's jet to Cancun for spring break.”
The Red Devil takes quite a few victims within two hours. He stabs Chanel #2 in her room as she packs to go home because of an argument over blood oaths and STDs (“Idiot, you don't get STDs from blood oaths. You get STDs from dirty toilet seats and drinking the water in Mexico.”), stabs a security guard in her car, and picks off Deaf Taylor Swift’s head with a lawnmower. Don’t worry: Deaf T. Swizzle dies happily as she sings “Shake it Off” in her final moments.
Meanwhile, Grace pairs up with the mysterious editor of the school newspaper named Pete (Diego Boneta) to write an exposé on Chanel, the dark secrets of Kappa Kappa Tau, and the recent murders. Grace plans to work as Pete’s inside source in the sorority, like the campus’ own Nellie Bly. A future romantic relationship is alluded to between them, as well.
Well, that is until Grace stumbles upon the devil mascot costume in Pete’s wardrobe and abandons ship. To add to the suspense, we also meet Boone (Nick Jonas), who is preparing to join Kappa as the first gay male in a sorority. Before he can do so, he is supposedly the murderer’s next victim. He is found by screaming frat boys with his neck slit and his body laid out on a table surrounded by burning candles. However, the Red Devil pulls his from a drawer at the county morgue that night, and he is very much alive. Holy cliffhanger.
The show is a purposely low-quality thriller built into a highly appreciated satire. After just two aired episodes of the show, it's clear that this series will cater exclusively to a niche audience. The potent blend of overblown personalities, razor-sharp insults, and #relatable moments foreshadows a loyal cult following akin to Parks & Recreation and Bob’s Burgers. The ensemble cast delivers it all with precision; Emma Roberts and Jamie Lee Curtis are especially commendable for their parts. Their fiery personalities are bound to intensify as they each compete to have the last laugh.
The writers play the “dumb, privileged white kid” shtick like a fiddle. Most notably, Chanel pays $20 for a “Trenta no-foam, five-shot, half-caf, no foam, pumpkin spice latte with no foam at 210 degrees” before she takes one sip, throws it on the floor, and demands that another “coffee donkey” makes her one that doesn't have burnt milk in it. And how could we forget Chanel #2’s death scene? As she comes face-to-face with the devil-masked murderer, she communicates with him via text message and sends out her only call for help on Twitter. The blatant shade thrown at our generation is real, people.
It’s hilariously offensive, painfully straightforward, and wrong in all the right places. Some viewers have been shocked by some of the terms used for the sake of satirical comedy. The show really requires viewers to appreciate and process off-color humor, so the easily offended will want to keep clear: this show will just trigger meltdowns via Tumblr social justice activism. But if you’re tough enough to handle it, check it out.
New episodes of Scream Queens air every Tuesday at 8 p.m. on Fox.