- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 26 October 2016
- Written by BRIDGET NOCERA | STAFF WRITER
“If it was possible for me to feel anything, I would totally be sobbing right now,” said Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd), which unfortunately reflects my attitude towards this season of FOX’s Scream Queens.
The campy, crass creation was a show I fell hard for in its killer first season. The story of the snotty, selfish, yet fabulous sisters of Kappa Kappa Tau, who not only have to deal with an vengeful dean, preppy fraternity “bros,” and, you know, just your everyday serial killer on the loose, was some of the most genuine fun I’ve had watching television in the past few years. Scream Queens wasn’t for everyone, and still isn’t, but it was full of endlessly weird and original characters, rapid-fire quips, and the perfect blend of horror and comedy. Now, it merely feels like a bad imitation that is desperately trying to find that first season shine.
Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, the creators and writers behind the series, might simply have other projects on their minds, leaving Scream Queens to get the short end of the stick. Their other creation, American Horror Story, seems to have hit a new stride in its sixth season with a twisty, creative plotline that has fading audiences tuned in again.
There’s also the critically lauded The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, which Murphy and Falchuk direct and produce. It was one of the most nominated series at this year’s Emmys and its next two seasons’ stories have already been announced. If that wasn’t enough, Murphy has his newest anthology series Feud lined up, debuting with the infamous feud between Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon).
Or, it may just be that Scream Queens isn’t as popular in the writing room as its titular queen bees are on campus.
Onscreen, it’s obvious that a spark has gone out. In hindsight, season two looked promising and ready to fight any past wrongs. The original idea for the series was to be another anthology along the lines of American Horror Story, which was scrapped. This could have been a fantastic way to breathe new life into the series but the thought of loosing some key characters was daunting for writers and fans alike.
Instead, Murphy and company decided to just switch up locations, going from the posh campus of Wallace University to the dark, claustrophobic C.U.R.E Institute, a hospital purchased by Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis). This location change should have been a fun switch up, but ended up being clumsily done. The brainy, selfless Zayday (Keke Palmer) transitioned nicely as a medical student under the now Dr. Munsch, but Chanel (Emma Roberts) and her minions (Lourd as Chanel #3 and Abigail Breslin as Chanel #5) are shoehorned in with all the grace of a serial killer in a full body costume and mask. In a show that rarely makes narrative sense and enjoys pushing the boundaries of what is even physically and logically possible, the hospital setting is actually too ridiculous and is significantly less entertaining than its previous campus location.
The semblance of plot that comes with this new setting is weak as well. When the hospital becomes the safe haven for patients with rare, unsolved ailments, a new character and disease is introduced each week. But because this season is less concerned than ever with its biggest asset, the use of some hilarious characters to make up for the flimsy plot, none of the patients are around long enough to make an impression. Last season, we got a nerdy pledge who made YouTube blogs about candles, the introduction to Chanel #3, a sorority girl with no emotion and a penchant for bedazzled earmuffs, a Kappa Kappa Tau advisor aesthetically stuck in the 90s due to a medical condition, and so many more. The revolving door of patients should add on to this wild list, but never rises to the occasion.
Season two of Scream Queens almost removed its biggest mistake from season one: the focus on its most unimaginative and irritating characters. Goody two shoes Grace (Skyler Samuels) and her creepy journalist boyfriend Pete (Diego Boneta) were the weakest links in the debut season, who tried to solve a nearly impossible mystery. With both characters not set to return, we rejoiced for the chance to finally see consistent screen time for the crazy and charismatic Chanels, the conniving Munsch, and the two best characters of the series: golf jock, raging narcissist, and Chanel’s on-again off-again boyfriend Chad Radwell (Glen Powell), and ragtag security guard Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash). This season, however, has Chanel at her whiniest, Munsch at her most vulnerable, and Chad and Denise barely there at all. Why make the change from an anthology series to a continued story from season to season, only to abandon the characters that made it so special in the first place?
Instead, we get the overhyped additions of Dr. Brock Holt (John Stamos) and Dr. Cassidy Cascade (Taylor Lautner), two uninspired inclusions whose only personality traits lay on their predictably “secret” pasts. Stamos sleepwalks through every scene and Lautner is painfully average – not terrible but completely uncharismatic.
In the end, I would much rather be ostentatiously offed by this season’s serial killer, the Green Meanie, than to write about the shortcomings of what should still be one of the funniest guilty pleasure shows on television. There is still some hilarious dialogue, thanks to Chad and Denise finally coming back into the story in episode two, and exaggerated deaths abound, but there is an overbearing sense of something missing. Scream Queens is grasping for what once made it work, and surprisingly failing, and trying new ideas that are nothing more than lackluster. We still have a long season ahead but the real question is not whether our once favorite characters will survive the season, but whether the audience will.