×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Scream Queens’

With:
Emma Roberts, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lea Michele, Abigail Breslin, Nasim Pedrad, Oliver Hudson, Skyler Samuels, Keke Palmer, Billie Lourd, Diego Boneta, Glen Powell, Lucien Laviscount, Niecy Nash, Nick Jonas, Ariana Grande

Series co-creator Ryan Murphy has described “Scream Queens” as something new, but his latest Fox series is really something old and something borrowed — largely from his own filmography. Basically, the zanier aspects of “Glee” meet the anthological component and bloodletting of “American Horror Story,” birthing a Fox series that makes all the key players both suspects and potential victims, albeit with somewhat more wit than MTV’s similar adaptation “Scream.” For anyone who watched “Glee” wondering what it would be like to see the Cheerios get skewered, this is probably for you. Others, like these characters, should tread cautiously.

Although no one bursts into song (at least, not during the two-hour premiere), it’s hard to escape the sensation that Murphy and collaborators Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan have channeled their whimsical formula from their high-school-set show into this collegiate one — adding horror and genre spoofing to an ingredient list that again includes a healthy dose of broad comedy.

Drawing from “Horror Story’s” playbook, the series begins with a 20-year-old flashback regarding a bad thing that happened at the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority house. Flash forward to the present day, and imperious sorority queen Chanel (Emma Roberts) is so dismissive of her minions that she won’t even bother to learn their names, giving them numbers instead, up to the inevitable Chanel No. 5. Similarly, she abuses the house cleaning woman by haughtily referring to her as “White Mammy.”

In a rather “Animal House”-like wrinkle, the Kappas find themselves squarely in the sights of the university’s Dean (Jamie Lee Curtis). Unable to revoke their charter, she does the next best thing by forcing the snooty, stick-thin Greeks to admit the kind of undesirables — as Chanel puts it, “fatties and ethnics” — they would normally shun and deride. (“Glee’s” Lea Michele is among the outcasts.)

Entering the mix, and serving as a sort-of-surrogate for the audience, is Grace (Skyler Samuels), who arrives at school with her suspiciously widowed dad (Oliver Hudson). Not only is Grace eager to join the house, but she coaxes her roommate (Keke Palmer) to accompany her. Still, Kappa’s history quickly becomes its present, with a few not-to-be-spoiled casualties, as well as some twists intended to keep the audience guessing.

It’s all executed with cheeky style, but there’s also a too-familiar quality that extends to the show’s political targets, with the snotty sorority types expressing their admiration for Cindy McCain and Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, and Chanel citing her desire to become the next Diane Sawyer. One of the frat boys, meanwhile, signals his stupidity by professing his fondness for the films of Michael Bay.

Murphy and his creative brain trust are extremely good at packaging these projects for maximum media impact, adorning them with all kinds of shiny objects, provocative or nostalgic casting choices and sly references. Moreover, there’s something wonderfully liberating about being able to kill off characters, knowing that in success you simply reboot the whole thing under the same banner, without needing to worry about skidding off the rails the way “Glee” did.

Get past the baubles, though, and the series simply feels too derivative to be truly exciting or particularly suspenseful. So while the casting and format should be enough to help “Scream Queens” make some initial noise ratings-wise, creatively speaking, there’s just not much here to shout about.

TV Review: 'Scream Queens'

(Series; Fox, Tue. Sept. 22, 8 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in New Orleans by Ryan Murphy Television and Brad Falchuk Teley-Vision in association with 20th Century Fox Television.

Crew: Executive producers, Murphy, Falchuk, Ian Brennan, Alexis Martin Woodall; directors, Murphy, Falchuk; writers, Murphy, Falchuk, Brennan. 120 MIN.

Cast: Emma Roberts, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lea Michele, Abigail Breslin, Nasim Pedrad, Oliver Hudson, Skyler Samuels, Keke Palmer, Billie Lourd, Diego Boneta, Glen Powell, Lucien Laviscount, Niecy Nash, Nick Jonas, Ariana Grande

More TV

  • George Clooney’s ‘Catch-22’ Sells to Asia

    George Clooney’s ‘Catch-22’ Sells to Asia and Australia (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Catch-22” has caught the interest of several big-name global buyers. Chinese streaming platform iQiyi, Australian SVOD service Stan, and HBO Asia are among the latest to acquire the Hulu adaptation of Joseph Heller’s novel, which is produced by and stars George Clooney. Paramount’s TV distribution unit struck the new deals for the series, which will [...]

  • Billy McFarland of the Fyre Festival

    Entertainment One Takes International Rights to Hulu's 'Fyre Fraud'

    Entertainment One has picked up international rights to Hulu’s documentary on the disastrous Fyre Festival. “Fyre Fraud” looks at the unscrupulous dealings of Billy McFarland, the self-aggrandizing huckster who sold thousands of tickets to a music festival in the Bahamas that turned out to be a sham. Duped by a promotional campaign on social media [...]

  • ‘Stan & Ollie’ Producer Making Joan

    ‘Stan & Ollie’ Producer to Make TV Series About Joan and Jackie Collins

    The colorful lives of movie star Joan Collins and her bestselling novelist sister, Jackie, will be dramatized in a TV series. Sony-backed Fable Pictures, the British film and TV producer behind “Stan & Ollie,” will make the series, having secured the TV rights to the Collinses’ story. The series, which has the working title “Joan [...]

  • Friends From College

    'Friends From College' Canceled by Netflix

    Netflix has canceled comedy series “Friends From College” after two seasons. “Friends from College will not return for a third season,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement Monday. “We’re grateful to creators Nick Stoller and Francesca Delbanco for creating a wise, funny and supremely relatable show. We also want to thank the hard-working crew, [...]

  • Mandy Moore

    Mandy Moore Opens Up About Her Marriage to Ryan Adams: ‘I Was So Sad’

    Mandy Moore opened up about her marriage to Ryan Adams on Monday’s episode of Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. While the interview was taped before the publication of the Feb. 13 New York Times report in which multiple women, including Moore, accuse Adams of sexual misconduct or emotionally abusive behavior, she speaks freely about the “unhealthy dynamic” in [...]

  • Lisa Borders Time's Up

    Time's Up President Lisa Borders Resigns

    Lisa Borders has resigned as president of Time’s Up, she and the organization announced on Monday. Borders is resigning due to family issues, she said in a statement. Time’s Up COO Rebecca Goldman will now serve as interim CEO. “As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content