Pilot Perception: Scream Queens

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Scream Queens, FOX in the U.S. and City TV in Canada, Tuesdays at 9/8c

NOTE: The Scream Queens premiere is two hours long, so it’s starting an hour earlier than usual – tonight at 8/7c.

The Pedigree: Scream Queens was created by Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story), who executive produces with frequent collaborators Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan. Murphy wrote the first two episodes (both airing tonight); he directed the first and Falchuk the second.

The Cast & How You Know Them: The ensemble cast is led by Emma Roberts (American Horror Story: Freak Show), Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween), Lea Michele (Glee), Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), Nasim Pedrad (Saturday Night Live), Oliver Hudson (Nashville), Skyler Samuels (American Horror Story: Coven), Keke Palmer (Masters of Sex), Nick Jonas (Kingdom), and Ariana Grande (Victorious).

The Premise: Scream Queens is a comedy-horror series about a string of murders centered around an exclusive sorority run by a psychopathic Blair Waldorf wannabe. Are they related to a cover-up from twenty years ago? (Yes, of course they are.) Is one of these college students the baby whose mother died in the house? (Presumably.)

A Taste:


What Works: The show is certainly very pretty. Several of the performances were well done here, for what they were given — Emma Roberts was better than I expected; Skyler Samuels and Abigail Breslin were as solid as I expected; I kept writing “Jamie Lee Curtis is so great” in my notes; Nick Jonas was a complete delight; even Ariana Grande was way better than I thought possible. There was a dad/daughter scene I loved — it involved Twilight! — and a fun little Serial joke. And I’m mildly curious to find out what’s going on in the central mystery, though that’s “skim some recaps on my lunch break” curious, not “actually watch the show” curious.

What Doesn’t: This is one of those shows that I suspect is doing what it’s trying to do, but what it’s trying to do is something I’m just not interested in at all. First of all, I like mysteries but I don’t like horror — though I’ll say that this was way less scary than I’d feared, so maybe people who do like horror won’t like it either? I’m honestly not sure. More importantly, it’s full of Ryan Murphy’s typical “edgy” “jokes” that mostly just come across as genuinely racist, homophobic, misogynist, etc. While a lot of this is ostensibly satirical, it’s not particularly funny or clever and doesn’t really illuminate …¬†anything. And — especially with discussions of young women — it too often felt like it wasn’t actually satirical, and I am really not here for Ryan Murphy’s take on “everything wrong with young girls these days.”

Our Favorite Line: “We have a sideboob mixer followed by a white party, where everyone is encouraged to wear-slash-be white.”

You Might Like This if you like horror, maybe, but probably if you like Ryan Murphy’s other stuff? I suspect you either like his schtick or you don’t.

If You’re Interested: Scream Queens premieres tonight at 8/7c on FOX and City TV. Next week it enters its normal timeslot of 9/8c.

(Photo courtesy of FOX.)

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