American Horror Story has carved out a space in TV that no other show seems able to muscle into. Sure, there are plenty of other horror properties that go for the aged gothic crossed with modern glamour look, but nothing has quite nailed the kind of absurd decadence that American Horror Story does so well. Sorry, Supernatural, you're just not campy enough. With American Horror Story Season 5: Hotel coming in October, it looks as if nothing else will get a look in on its specialty of crazy horrific fun; except maybe it's own creators' new show, Scream Queens.
From the Wicked Minds of Glee and American Horror Story!
These are some of the strangest words to see when being told to watch something. I can't ignore the fact that Glee and American Horror Story seem to have such opposite appeals. Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have answered this strange disparity by essentially mixing the two shows together. There's the highly structured social systems of teenagers, with an emphasis on accepting the different and disenfranchised (again), but hey there's also serial killers and perhaps even blood rituals so that'll be fun!
It seems Scream Queens is employing a "best of both worlds" approach, but what worries me is that American Horror Story never needed that. The reason people love American Horror Story is that it dives into itself with such gusto. It indulges its subject matter without even being tempted to look at the camera and wink. What does Scream Queens do similarly ? Well, Emma Roberts is back, and it seems she's helping define what really separates this new show from the ones that birthed it.
Scream Queens is a comedy
The above trailer is full of that weird air new comedies tend to present, where they insist that a joke is present, even if you can't find one. Take the moment where a new pledge is seen to be eating candle wax. Another girls quite reasonably asks "are you eating candle wax?", and there's the joke. There's no response or pay off. Just "haha! She's eating candle wax!"
With classic scream queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis, appearing as a Dean figure, I get the impression that this show is using the Scream model of parodic comedy; AKA, drawing attention to the fact you're indulging in cliches, and then indulging in cliches. That's a fine thing to do, it just isn't exactly laugh inducing. There's another problem with springing off American Horror Story to make a comedy.
American Horror Story was already comedic!
So I'd like to make it clear that I'm certainly not laughing all the way through every season of American Horror Story. For all it's silliness, the show has the capacity to suddenly go very, VERY dark, and I believe that might be a tradition carried over to Season 5: Hotel. That said, the moment seasons like Coven or Freak Show begin to actually take their absurd situations even a little bit seriously, it immediately becomes hilarious. The appeal of American Horror Story isn't strengthened by the show occasionally turning to the camera and saying "hey! We've seen a bunch of movies!"
Perhaps this is all a little harsh towards Scream Queens, for, as a substitute for American Horror Story, it seems to be striving for goofy rather than campy. With Scream Queens now filling the comedic quota, what could this mean for American Horror Story: Hotel?
Will American Horror Story Season 5: Hotel be dark and serious?
Well, let's just say dark...er. The show is definitely able to go to dour and grim places, and I would never suggest that the entire thing can be watched without the utmost empathy for the characters. There is simply the worry that American Horror Story: Hotel might lose a bit of it's ridiculousness if its creators are spending all their comedic chips on Scream Queens.
The degree to which Scream Queens might steal American Horror Story's thunder is yet to be determined. Perhaps it's silly to conflate the two shows, and suggest that they're in competition with each other. If that were the case, American Horror Story would instantly lose because it doesn't have shirtless Nick Jonas I mean obvs!