September 21, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Scream Queens”



There didn’t seem to be a pressing need for a second season of SCREAM QUEENS.  The ratings for Season 1 were meager, even in the young female demo the show was courting, and the reviews were worse.  But FOX as a whole had bigger flops to cancel, plus the network as well as its studio and cable arms are heavily in business with uber-producer Ryan Murphy, so here we are.

With Season 2 ordered, the show could have rebooted and tried to fix its many flaws.  But instead, it departed from its originally announced plans by making the new season a direct sequel to the first, rather than a American Horror Story-type anthology.  So virtually all the surviving characters are back, and the main difference this time around is the setting.  Based on the season premiere, at least, written by series creators Murphy, Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk (and directed by Falchuk), the tone has also been adjusted a bit:  the emphasis this time will be more on comedy than horror, with the night’s murders confined to the opening and closing sequences, and everything in between more or less a sitcom.

Much of the premiere was devoted to setting up the contrivances necessary to get all the characters relocated to Our Lady of Perpetual Suffering Hospital.  Former Dean Munsch, now a bestselling author, has decided to reform the US healthcare system, and she hires medical student Zayday (Keke Palmer) to work at the hospital she’s taken over with her riches.  For reasons still shrouded in mystery, she also brings in the horrible Chanels (Emma Roberts, Abigail Breslin, Billie Lourd), who were freed from the asylum where we left them at the end of Season 1 after Hester (Lea Michele) idiotically confessed to the murders on tape.  The major new characters are Doctors Holt (John Stamos, playing vain as usual) and Cascade (Taylor Lautner, playing stupid as usual), and mean Head Nurse I.M. Hoffel (Kirstie Alley).

The setting is different, but the dynamic between the characters is the same as it was last season, and so unfortunately is the witlessness.  (If you say the name of Alley’s character fast and it makes you laugh, you may be in the target audience for Scream Queens.)  The violence and themes of Scream Queens are for an audience of tweeners and up, but the humor is pitched to 8-year olds and below, with the entire cast firmly over the top.  (In the premiere, that includes SNL‘s Cecily Strong as the hospital’s most prominent patient, who suffers from werewolf syndrome and doesn’t make it to episode 2.)  Also the same:  the mystery, which once again is rooted in a crime committed many years before (doctors allowing a patient to die so as not to miss the hospital Halloween party), includes a baby born at the time of the original murder, and has the current killings committed by someone in a flashy costume (this time, sort of a creature from the black lagoon sort of outfit).  The utter lack of imagination may be the scariest thing about this show.

There was plenty of room for Scream Queens to improve in a second season, but its creators seem to think that everything was just fine already.  With the buzzy Bull and This Is Us as competition, there’s no reason to think that the series will find any more of an audience than it did the last time.  It certainly doesn’t deserve to.

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."