The biggest problem that exists with MTV’s Scream is that it is neither the once highly profitable and iconic movie series of the same name and it is not Scream Queens, a similar show debuting on FOX later in the year with much better elements. It tries to have it both ways – cashing in on the nostalgia of the original series with no obvious links to the film franchise. If Jurassic World can slip Richard Hammond and the cute DNA animation into the movie Scream can at least acknowledge the existence of the feature film characters or utter the word “Ghostface”.
Here’s the thing about pilots though: they’re so hit and miss and nearly impossible to tell if it is a reflection on the overall quality of the series. Just look at Breaking Bad or Doctor Who – two of the worst pilots ever endured for two of the best series ever. Who’s to tell if the first word of the second episode will be “Ghostface” or if Courtney Cox will cameo in the finale? Unlikely on both counts, but nobody knows.
MTV gets a couple of things right, purely out of habit. It’s ultra-modern and plays on things like sexuality and modern technology, most explicably the internet. Every now and again a cool tune plays in the background and an MTV banner tells me the niche artist it’s promoting. As a music lover, it’s cute.
The plot is nearly interesting. Some shows begin with a collection of stereotypes and deliberately skew them as the series progresses to compound a narrative journey. It will be shocking if Scream manages that. Here we have a Good Girl with Dickhead Friends, an Outcast, a Nerd, a Bitch, Footballer #1 and Footballer #2. The supporting cast includes Hot Teacher, Mum and Town Sheriff. Nothing obtuse about any of these clichés. Nothing outside of the box. Nothing to indicate much of a catharsis for anyone outside of Good Girl with Dickhead Friends.
Then again, it’s hiatus season. It’s not competing with the riveting How To Get Away With Murder or American Horror Story. It’s not going for Emmys or Golden Globes. It doesn’t even look like it’s trying to make a statement. It’s just a trashy MTV series with the old Scream logo that can be consumed without thinking too hard.
And that’s not a dig at MTV. People know when they see the logo that this is studio that made Jackass 1-3, Hansel and Gretal: Witch Hunters and Unfriended. It’s fun and senseless and from a studio perspective, profitable. Their most compelling work is Faking It (back August 30th!!!) and even that smells like bubble gum to a degree.
If you want introspection of the human condition go to AMC or HBO. If you want an unfathomably attractive cast stretching a horror film over ten episodes flick on MTV. Seriously, Footballer #1 may be a Ken doll that has been Frankenstein-ed to life. Creepy.
The rest of the cast is passable. The ones you’re supposed to like, you like, and the ones you don’t, you don’t. A nod to John Karna though, who plays the nerd Noah with more wit and charm than the others combined. He’s also the one spruiking the once trademark meta-commentary but nineteen years have passed since the original and it’s hardly revolutionary any more. It’s just sensible.
If Scream were using a different title things may be different. The shoes are too big to fill and frankly it doesn’t hold a torch. The iconography of Scream is more than the Ghostface mask. It is Neave Campbell fighting back, Rose McGowan in the garage, the boys goofing around at the VHS rental store, Courtney Cox and David Arquette awkwardly flirting, Henry Winkler accosting students with his big scissors and the unforgettable opening act with superstar Drew Barrymore.
They don’t make slasher films like Scream any more and the television series is no exception. But if you’re bored on a Tuesday night during hiatus season then you’re up for anything.