Monday, June 4, 2012

Screaming All the Way to the Small Screen

In news that I didn't expect to be writing about today - or any other day for that matter - the blisteringly brilliant Scream franchise is indeed getting a new instalment! However, before we get too excited about the prospect of a Scream 5 carrying on the legacy of Sidney Prescott with a should-be-new final girl in the form of Hayden Panetierre's "Kirby Reed", the franchise will actually be spinning off into the world of television instead. Yes, you read that right, there will be a Scream TV series and good grief what the hell?

I don't really know what to say about this. Firstly, because we don't know enough details about the project yet, and secondly, because what the hell? The project will be bought to MTV (!?!) network by Tony DiSanto and Liz Gateley, who helped craft 1980s flick Teen Wolf into a successful series, who are currently trying to find a screenwriter for the project. None of the websites that I have read know anything about the news of series format, length or cast and crew, but there is actually precedence in the world of horror franchises being sent to televisions around the country. Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, arguably two of the three most popular and famous slasher film franchises of all time, have been shoved onto the box to little success. The former, screening from 1987-1990, bared nothing to do with the film series other than some cast and crew crossover and use of the title/typeface so, really, we shouldn't even be discussing it. Freddy's Nightmares, screening between 1988-1990, took the blueprint of weekly "nightmares" in which a new fresh-faced teen battled deadly dreamscapes from week to week. We actually looked at one episode earlier this year that starred a young John Cameron Mitchell!

I doubt we'll be seeing this anytime on TV soon, right?

Still, best bet is that any Scream series that does eventuate would take the longform structure that is inescapable on TV these days. As my wise friend Simon says, "Someone sit the MTV execs down and make them watch Harper's Island. That'll put a stop to things." Indeed it is easy to see the format of the series being a new Ghostface killer plaguing a small town each season with the mystery unfolding over 15 or so episodes with the big climactic reveal bringing about an end to the season before moving on to another copycat killer in another town. Depending on how many series the show runs for (if it runs at all), I can actually see it being taken to places that could be really interesting. Scream 2, for instance, could have been a really fascinating examination of a college campus under threat if given this sort of treatment. Especially given the two worlds that the killers came from. It risks the problem of having its ordinary, every day school drama strands - which, let's face it, would be ramped up a lot with the padded run time that a series affords - be just like every other teen drama on the box, but for now I will remain optimistic that whoever is put in charge of writing this thing (it will not be Kevin Williamson or Wes Craven, and to even entertain the idea is ridiculous) will be able to do something with it. The Scream universe holds several steadfast defaults that, if excised, will prove disastrous. So I think we can be safe in assuming the dialogue laced with pop culture references will remain, as will the tantalisingly terrifying telephone calls that gave the original film such an original hook. The cast of Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette (and Marley Shelton for that matter) are certain to not have any involvement in the project, and for that we can surely be thankful. I mean, it was stretching belief that they would survive three encounters with a masked madman, let alone four.

What worries me though is that one of the films' most impressive elements was the very real way that they mirrored real life. These films are not like the Elm Street movies where people continue to live on the eponymous street with surely the worst mortality rate of any street in America. It's not like Haddonfield where killers get up and walk about no matter what happens to them. It's not Crystal Lake where entire groups of vacationing teens can be hacked to bits and yet every year more arrive just to tempt fate. In the world of Scream there are very real consequences to peoples actions and grave results are on the cards or anybody and everybody. People mourn the dead in these films; death is not a joke. The victims here have families and backstories and pain. Will the series acknowledge this and be able to make its (inevitably overstuffed) cast personable or will one characters death be merely a way to get away with grabbing the Scream brand. Even in the less popular Scream 3 and Scream 4 it's rare to find a character's death feel completely arbitrary. For every Anthony Anderson or Deon Richmond, there is a Marielle Joffe or Parker Posey. The survivors don't just pick themselves up and carry on with their lives, they have scars and damage. Will a series be able to get this across without the skill of Craven and Williamson?

Someone who holds such a close relationship with the franchise as I do can only hold out hope. "What's your favourite scary TV show?" doesn't quite have the same ring to it, but I'll tune in to find out if Scream is it. As long as they don't cast Jessica Alba, amiright?

(and before anybody asks, yes, there are still plans to finish "Scream to Scream". I just needed an extended break!)

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