July 8, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “Scream”


SCREAM:  Tuesday 10PM on MTV

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on SCREAM:  In the town of Lakewood, it’s been 20 years since a misshapen student supposedly slaughtered a horde of schoolmates in a single night, all for the love of Daisy Duval.  Now someone who really loves his/her up-to-the-minute tech is stalking the local teens once again.  They’re a self-aware bunch who know all about horror cliches–and the girl at the center of if all is Emma (Willa Fitzgerald), who just happens to be the daughter of Daisy, who now goes by the name Maggie (Tracy Middendorf) and is the town coroner.

Episode 2:  Nothing in the TV version of Scream has so far come close to the wit of the MTV promo that featured major cast members from all the network’s other shows as bloody victims of the series’ killer.  The second hour of the show itself, written by series co-creator and co-showrunner Jill Blotevogel and directed by Tim Hunter, rather ploddingly repeated the pattern of the pilot.  Once again, the pre-credits tease was the murder of the week, structured by a taunting phone call.  MTV can’t afford a celebrity victim on a weekly basis, though, and although the show will eventually get around to killing cast regulars, for now it’s the redshirts who’ll be dying, in this case the girlfriend of Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus, who gives the closest thing to a rounded performance to be found).  What followed was a lot of mediocre teen soap–would Emma forgive her boyfriend Will (Connor Weil) for cheating on her, or get more involved with new kid Kieran (Amadeus Serafini), who she kissed last week?–mixed with some occasional meta-chat about the horror genre, mostly from nerd Noah (John Kama), with the episode’s final scene another teasing phone call from the killer to Emma, broadly hinting at some plot twists that are probably on the way involving just what happened 20 years ago.

Noah was right to be dubious about extending a slasher movie plot to a continuing series; part of the essential satisfaction of that genre, guilty or not, is the body count, and offing one teen per week just won’t do it.  The meta-dialogue feels more forced than self-knowing, as much a cliche as the ones it’s poking fun at.  Scream‘s biggest problem, though, is the thinness of its non-murder plot and characters.  This is the major substance of the episodes, and it’s weak both in conception and execution.  Throwing in every manner of pop tech reference possible (a new character hosts a Serial-like podcast on the Lakewood murders) makes the show feel about as textured as a list of trending hashtags.

Considering the months of hype that had preceded it and the pre-sold title, Scream had an OK but underwhelming start in the ratings last week.  Without the ability to eat up plot (and characters) the way the Scream feature films could with their 2-hour running times, and with no apparent interest in juicing up the formula other than by updating the cultural references, the Scream TV series feels conservative and more than a little dull.  It’s mired in the genre conventions that the movies were trying to shake up.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…

PILOT + 1:  The Only Nightmares It Causes May Be At Its Own Network


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."