by Rita Aresta
New scenario, some new faces among the cast and a new mystery, but nothing else has changed: such was the return of “Scream Queens”
It’d be only fair to expect that, following the intense marketing campaign and great teaser trailers preceding the return of Scream Queens for its second season, the latest instalment of Ryan Murphy’s work would’ve been better geared up before taking the plunge last September. After being analysed by Fox, since it had already been one of their least profitable dramas over the past season, the network eventually yielded to the weight of its producers and decided to give them a second chance, under one condition: to broaden the audience of Scream Queens – an almost impossible mission.
Scream Queens’ average young audience isn’t all that interesting from a purely commercial perspective – certainly not enough for a television network that seeks live viewers, rather than users of on-demand services or DVDs. It therefore needed an adult audience and Murphy resorted to seemingly the only method he knows to bring a show back to life: guest stars.
It’s then no coincidence that Murphy has called up some old-fashioned 90s names (read: has-beens) such as John Stamos (Full House, ER), Kirstie Alley (Cheers, Veronica’s Closet) or Jerry O’Connell (Jerry Maguire, Scream 2). Likewise, the show’s second season takes place in a hospital full of exotic diseases – did Murphy go on a House watching spree? – instead of a university campus. When Murphy told The Hollywood Reporter “before the show did seem very young, but now I hope there’s something for everybody”, what he really meant was that he hoped the show would cater for the 35-49 years old heterosexual male. As for keeping hold of the bubblegum female audience, all bets were placed on Taylor Lautner (Twilight series).
Beyond the influence of testosterone and the aging character of its new setting, there’s absolutely nothing worthwhile to distinguish this season from its predecessor. Scream Queens is still a mixed bag of epic proportions, now reduced to becoming a factory of .gifs and one-liners, and a showcase of well-known faces. Its plot loses any sense of logic within the first few minutes – at least the first season held out for a while longer. It’s up to the audience to decide whether to accept the show’s rules, or lack thereof, or to switch off the television. Despite its small modifications (some would say improvements…), there was little reason to attract new viewers. This was clearly reflected in the season premiere viewer numbers – 2.17 million for the second season, compared to 4.04 million for the first.
The best, as I had expected, were still the Chanels. Emma Roberts, Billie Lourd and Abigail Breslin gracefully retained their iconic roles, every time regaining in a matter of seconds any brilliance they could’ve possibly lost. Beyond all the mysteries and conflicts spinning in the background, and probably without even realising it, their ambition shines through – not only to regain their social status, but also to succeed in the professional world. The greatest mystery – the one which supposedly brings the word “terror” into the definition of this series – arises in exactly the same manner as last season, only in tones of green instead of red…and wait, there’s two of them – no, three! This isn’t the only thing that is repeating itself: there’s also the messy, meaningless plot, the humour moments bouncing between genius and stupidity, and the constant feeling that everyone has something to hide; all of these are still recurring elements.
Despite its alleged changes, Scream Queens remains very much the same. If you enjoyed the first season, then the second one might be just what you’re looking for. The funny dynamics of the Chanels, the entertaining darkness of Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis), as well as many other little bits and pieces, are still there. The novelty cast members don’t really make any significant improvement – although the characters of John Stamos and Kirstie Alley do play important parts – but they do help in somewhat holding up the show despite all the obstacles it has managed to put in its own way. Ultimately, not the large number of deaths – not even a resurrection from the first season! – managed to make the second season of Scream Queens shine. It presented itself as a parody; it’s only too bad no one realised the joke was on them.
Third time lucky?
After the season finale closing off at a mere 1.38 million viewers (especially daunting considering Fox is an open access television channel in the USA), Fox’s CEO Gary Newman and network president David Madden commented on Scream Queens earlier this month at the Television Critics Association press tour: “it’s very much still in consideration for a renewal” they stated, “the ratings don’t really tell the whole story, because it’s such a young audience”. I guess we’ll have to wait and see whether Ryan Murphy’s product stamp alone is enough to land him yet another gig.
Creator: Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
Scr: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuck
Starring: Emma Roberts, Lea Michelle, Abigail, Breslin, Keke Palmer, Billie Lourd, Jamie Lee Curtis, Riley Schmidt
Music: Mac Quayle
DOP: Joaquin Sedillo
Number of Episodes: 10
Episode Runtime: 45mins
Scream Queens season 2 is available to stream now on All4