2015 Pilot First Impressions: FOX’s Scream Queens

Scream Queens

To clarify, this article and the ones similar to it are not reviews of this fall/midseason’s pilots (because pilots can change a lot between now and when they broadcast). These are just my first impressions of the not-for-air network pilots that I have been able to screen. I last wrote about NBC’s Blindspot. Next up: FOX’s Scream Queens, which premieres with a two-hour episode on Tuesday, Sept. 22, at 8 p.m.

The Premise: A devil-clad killer begins targeting those involved with Kappa House, the most popular, sought-after, and sadistic sorority on campus, causing everyone to question who the killer is and if they could be his or her next victim.

The Cast: Emma Roberts (American Horror Story) as Chanel Oberlin, Jamie Lee Curtis (New Girl) as Dean Cathy Munsch, Skyler Samuels (The Nine Lives of Chloe King) as Grace Gardner, Lea Michele (Glee) as Hester, Keke Palmer (Masters of Sex) as Zayday Williams, Abigail Breslin (Maggie) as Chanel #5, Diego Boneta (90210) as Pete Diller, Oliver Hudson (Nashville) as Wes Gardner, Glen Powell (The Expendables 3) as Chad, and Nasim Perdad (Saturday Night Live) as Gigi

First Impression: The opening scene of Scream Queens sets the tone for the rest of the show: this is an unapologetic, ultra-extreme, and over-the-top satire of the Greek system on college campuses. Similar to Glee (although lacking any of the sentimentality or, in some cases, real, actual heart that series had), Scream Queens exists in a heightened reality, where the brothers of fraternities and sisters of sororities care about nothing more than being rich and popular, and a few of the more “realistic” (and I greatly hesitate to use that word, because there’s nothing remotely realistic about Scream Queens) character end up getting dragged into the crazy web of secrets, sex, and death that make up this world.

Emma Roberts is a strong lead, playing Chanel, who comes off like the damaged and despondent love child of Sue Sylvester and Santana Lopez from Glee, as she constantly berates those around her with biting insult after biting insult, and the rest of the younger cast, including Lea Michele (who is very funny in her limited screen time as Hester), Abigail Breslin, and Keke Palmer, do solid work. However, the two standouts from the hour I’ve seen (part one of the two-hour premiere) are Jamie Lee Curtis, who seems to be having a ton of fun hamming it up as Dean Munsch, and Skyler Samuels, who gets saddled with some unfortunate dialogue (there’s an early scene between her and Diego Boneta’s Pete that’s supposed to be cute/flirty but is instead just awkward) but remains a strong and sturdy counterpart to Roberts’ Chanel as the somewhat innocent, but level-headed and determined Grace.

However, while Scream Queens is certainly entertaining viewing, featuring some great one-liners and truly committed performances, its apparent need to constantly top itself, whether with a line of dialogue (some of the racier lines that made it into the pilot certainly push the limits of language on broadcast network TV) or a grisly image, does get a bit exhausting from time to time. That’s the nature of any show that comes from Ryan Murphy; as energetic and innovative as he can be as a writer, he doesn’t always know when to stop and let good be good enough. Still, though, the pilot only gets better from its somewhat lacking opening sequence, and they’re are only a few dud moments here or there. Scream Queens swings big, and although it strikes out occasionally, the home runs that it hits certainly make it worth your time.

My Interest In Watching More: I’ll tune in for all 15 Season 1 episodes of Scream Queens, even if the series does end up starting to grate on me. The show has a great cast that I thoroughly enjoy watching, and as someone who stuck with Glee for all six of its very up-and-down seasons, I’m willing to stomach any of the bad that comes from Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan, as long as I get to enjoy the good stuff, too.

Are you excited for Scream Queens? Comment below and let us know.

[Photo via FOX]

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  1. Raghavendra Prasad
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