‘Scream Queens’: TV Review

17 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Curtis is mother of all ‘Scream Queens’.

Murphy’s upcoming Fox horror comedy Scream Queens and the latest installment of his American Horror Story franchise have topped Twitter’s annual assessment of the most buzzed about TV shows of the upcoming fall season.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.She earned an Oscar nomination as “Little Miss Sunshine,” but for her first starring role on as a television series, Abigail Breslin is showing off a decidedly darker side. EW has learned exclusively that OTH star Chad Michael Murray will appear on the Fox series as Brad Radwell, the older brother of Queens’ resident fratty d-bag Chad Radwell (Glen Powell).

The social media site released new figures Thursday that also place NBC’s Heroes Reborn, CBS’s Supergirl and the recently premiered Late Show with Stephen Colbert among the most talked about newbies among its users. 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. So you’d naturally expect sorority house slasher films to be over-ripe for the picking as Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan sat down to craft another over-the-top show for Fox.

Curtis, 56, chatted with USA TODAY about Queens and things she’s learned in her career, which includes such acclaimed films as A Fish Called Wanda and True Lies. It sort of comes alive in the last half hour with a faint hope that it might be more gripping in the future, but I can’t help wondering if the audience will still be watching by then.

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. Ryan (and fellow executive producers Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk) have given me the best creative experience probably that I’ve ever had. … When I read each episode, I’m so delighted by what I get to say, from a comedy standpoint and also from a sociopolitical standpoint and a feminist slant. 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).

Grace is a typical “nice girl,” who seems as though she’d never fit in at Kappa, where a house full of entitled mean girls is ruled by Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) and her two sidekicks, Chanel #2 (Ariana Grande), Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd) and Chanel #5 (Abigail Breslin). According to Twitter, Flash, Jane the Virgin and How to Get Away with Murder have seen major gains in chatter volume since last summer ahead of their debuts. 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. The campus is not very safe place as the school year begins because Kappas and the boys of the Dickie Dollar Scholar golf fraternity are being hunted down by a mysterious killer dressed in a red devil’s costume.

What do you think of fellow cast members, including Roberts, Abigail Breslin, Lea Michele, Billie Lourd and Skyler Samuels, being not much older than you were at the start of your career? 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. Plucky Grace teams up with the cute Carl Bernstein-wannabe Pete Martinez (Diego Boneta), editor of the school paper, to uncover the killer’s real identity and motive.

Everyone asks if it was nerve-wracking because I didn’t get the script until a few days before we came to set, but I knew whatever he was going to write was going to be funny. 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. How did you introduce yourself to other cast members especially since they’re based in New Orleans and you, because of family commitments in L.A., are there for shorter periods of time?

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. 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 I emailed him about these sunglasses that I thought would be great on the show, and he emailed back, “Love those!” He really listens to you and what you have to say about your character.

And since it’s already a self-satire, there isn’t much the writers can do with the role to make it more interesting. “Scream Queens” may get better, but its first two episodes are far too tame, especially coming from Ryan Murphy’s house of usually hilarious horrors. Even though Scream Queens is entertainment, I think it is a much more important look at American society today, female society and male society and the interaction of the two. After doing a casting scene in Anything But Love (1989-1992), producer “John Ritter walked over and said, ‘You have really funny feet.’ I remembered it as such a compliment because he was saying, ‘Physically, you are unafraid. One night, I got locked out of my house and I called Billie (Lourd): “Can I come over?” I’m the youngest on the set, so I’m always asking them for guy advice.

I look at the work in True Lies and that’s the freedom John Ritter gave me.” A. “I think Ryan has given voice to women of a certain age, that their abilities have not diminished. If anything, they’ve improved. … (At the same time), I saw both my parents (movie stars Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis) stay connected to their fame all the way to the end of their lives and I don’t’ want to be that person. She’s always bringing juices for everyone and mothering everybody and wrangling everybody. “OK, everybody, we’ve got to film.” She’s iconic but doesn’t act all like how famous actors would act.

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