Last night MTV premiered the new Scream series. It got off to a shaky start with an opening that made me very worried about what this show would be. The cold open was exactly what I expected the opening to be since hearing about the series, with no twists or surprises. I wondered if this entire series would just feel like a rote imitation. That’s really the line this show has to walk: providing a fill of homage and tradition without getting derivative. The cold open definitely failed to walk that line.
I started getting sucked in a couple scenes later. A professor brought up the popularity of horror shows. When a kid got horror TV shows confused with slasher movies, resident nerd Noah was quick to point out that these are very different and explain why the slasher genre wouldn’t work as a TV show. Slasher movies are all about delivering the instant gratification of a blood bath. TV shows need to draw things out. This discussion happening was, of course, also obligatory but the dialogue was actually interesting and I started to feel like this was the show I signed on for. The mention of specific shows (American Horror Story, Bates Motel, Hannibal), added a lot to the conversation but also brought up a problem with the idea of a Scream series: all these shows are pretty distinct from each other. While horror shows are extremely popular right now, it still hasn’t become a robust enough genre to have its own tropes and cliches the way horror movies do.
The show began having that rote, obligatory feeling again when the kids all ended up at a party by the lake and someone pointed out that it’s the perfect slasher setting. Even the kid who made this observation sounded exhausted. This scene didn’t really try to be anything other than a photocopy of a photocopy.
Scream really hit its stride in a big way and made me optimistic at long last in its final moments. Noah explained that in this story the mystery of who the killer is can’t be what’s important. You have to care. You have to care about whether the football team wins the big game or the girl next door forgives her ex-boyfriend. You have to care so that when they are brutally murdered, it matters. This monologue very nicely walked the line. It felt true to the Scream franchise while also defining what would be unique about this entry.
And so far I do care. It’s probably too early (and definitely too easy) to compare Noah to Abed Nadir, but I’m already having a lot of feelings towards the way he deals with everything through reference points. Audrey, a girl who was recently outed thanks to a video of her with another girl, provides some great emotional weight, as does Emma, her former best friend who is trying to reconnect to her after feeling bad about her black sheep status. Brooke, the resident ditzy blonde girl, provides some great comic relief, although her student/teacher romance storyline is extremely cliche. Although who knows? Maybe the show will beautifully tear the trope apart with some cold “hey, if this were a TV show it’d be messed up the way they’re romanticizing this” commentary.
All in all, Scream‘s first episode was hit-and-miss, but there was enough there to make me want to give it a chance.