RYAN MURPHY COMMITS YET ANOTHER TV HATE CRIME WITH A FLACCID “COMEDY” THAT’S DEAD ON ARRIVAL
AIRS TUESDAYS AT 9PM E/P ON FOX (NEXT-DAY STREAMING ON HULU)
Full disclosure: I despise Ryan Murphy and pretty much anything that bears his prissy paw prints. GLEE was a one-season wonder that quickly wore out its welcome and AMERICAN HORROR STORY is currently the single most reprehensible piece of violent junk on any network, broadcast or cable. Don’t even get me started on mercifully short-lived THE NEW NORMAL. Murphy is full-tilt prickish and insanely self-impressed; a pompous gas bag enabled by PC media mavens and “if it’s queer we must like it” roboqueens who give a pass to almost anything he does simply because his pendulum swings gay. Me? Not so much.
In SCREAM QUEENS, when he’s not ripping off the vastly superior work of others, Murphy goes dumpster diving to borrow from his favorite source: Ryan Murphy. It’s a vulgar, mean-spirited mess cobbled together from the worst bits of POPULAR, GLEE, NIP/TUCK and AHS then spackled with layers of offensive stereotypes, dated humor and stuff I’m pretty sure was stolen from the cutting room floor of PRETTY LITTLE LIARS. There’s good trash and bad trash and then there’s trash like SCREAM QUEENS: pointless drivel that exists in a depressing class all by itself.
After a brief opening set in 1995 (something about a baby born in a bathtub and a dead sorority girl), things lurch forward to present day at fictional Wallace University. In what passes for a plot, Rubber Man…I mean…the Red Devil Killer is prancing around campus offing characters who all deserve a fate worse than death. SCREAM QUEENS is so convinced of its own brilliance, the creators are completely tone deaf to long stretches that play like a high-pitched screed. You can almost hear the writers laughing at their own jokes and high-fiving themselves for being oh-so-clever. What might be a hootenanny for them is an entirely different experience if you’re on the receiving end of all that vigorous self-love. Watching SCREAM QUEENS is like getting an eyeful of jizz. To quote the immortal words of Miss Coco Peru: “It burns!”
In a direct lift from HARPERS ISLAND, at least one character dies each week. Unfortunately, as of this writing, that fate has yet to befall lead Emma Roberts. She plays sorority hag Chanel Oberlin with all the depth and skill of an ingénue from Central Casting. What she lacks in talent, Roberts more than compensates for in the volume department. Making matters worse, Chanel is obviously Murphy’s favorite character (probably because she reminds him of himself). That means she gets lots of lines, appears in just about every scene and never shuts up. Seriously, someone needs to stuff her pie hole with an apple, sock or ball gag; anything big enough to stop this harpy from talking.
The rest of the cast includes actors dropped into roles created specifically to insult and demean. Murphy continues his sad fascination with reducing black women to scripted versions of the ghetto un-fabulous ladies that populate WETV and VH1. In GLEE, we watched as Mercedes (Amber Riley) inexplicably devolved into “black bitch diva mode.” Here, we have KeKe Palmer as Zayday Williams. When a show has only one black woman featured in a main role, does she have to sound like the shuck and jive sister of Tamar Braxton? Apparently, in a Ryan Murphy production, she does. To seal the deal, Niecy Nash is trotted out to regale us with her tired routine of finger-wagging and head bobbing. Think Martin Lawrence as Shanaynay, but with less subtlety.
The stereotyping continues with just about every other female character, including particularly cruel depictions of the overweight and physically handicapped. Lea Michele plays Hester Ulrich, or “Neck Brace” as she is so lovingly referred to. Why? Because she has scoliosis and wears a very large body brace. Isn’t that pee-your-pants funny? Wait, there’s more! Whitney Meyer plays a character who doesn’t even merit a last name. She exists solely to serve as the butt of deaf jokes before the Red Devil dispatches her with a riding mower. At least her quick exit means she gets off comparatively easy. The same can’t be said for Jan Hoag as Ms. Bean, the sorority housekeeper. She’s a large woman who is verbally and physically abused by Chanel before being offed in a deep fryer. Get it? She’s fat so she has to die in a vat of hot oil. Are you slapping your knees yet? Every scene featuring Ms. Bean is painful to watch. The degradation is heaped upon her for no good reason, including some bizarre GONE WITH THE WIND references that add a dash of racist “humor” to the mix.
Oddly enough, cast members with a penis look super fine here. That’s because the male roles are filled by actors Murphy probably visualizes whenever he needs backroom jackoff fodder. The dudes in SCREAM QUEENS get full, sexy-sounding names and all are visions of physical perfection. The man candy includes: Glenn Powell, Diego Boneta, Lucien Laviscount and Nick Jonas. Truth be told, I like gratuitous male semi-nudity as much as the next gay guy, but I really don’t want to see it through the eyes of a creepy Hollywood hack’s even creepier sex fantasies. The way male characters are photographed and dispatched in SCREAM QUEENS is blatantly fetishistic. Murphy likes them young, buff and bloodied. See the repellant “four way of death” in the premier episode of AHS: HOTEL for further proof. On second thought, don’t. It makes anything in this show look like a walk in the park on a sunny day.
The big casting coup was supposed to be Jamie Lee Curtis. Instead, it’s pretty clear she’s just slumming. My affection and sympathy for her are the only reasons SCREAM QUEENS isn’t getting the “F” it so richly deserves.
Ryan Murphy is a creative charlatan in the classic sense; the favorite son of critics and viewers who flock to the excesses of a medium that celebrates “just because we can” shock and awe. He’s not a gifted director and is only capable of writing the kind of cunty dialogue you find on Tumblr blogs authored by the bitter bitches of tomorrow. SCREAM QUEENS is garbage that attracts self-appointed cool kids like flies to shit. They’ll never admit it (and Murphy is too in love with himself to care) but this is shit that definitely stinks.
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