Friday, August 13, 2010

Scream Queens 2: The "More Evolved" VH1 Stays Classy

 At least they're honest.

The contestants on most reality shows aren't "real people" at all. They're actors, looking for a cheap way to get some TV face time. Or they're models. Or aspiring musicians. Or comedians. This has been true for as long as there have been "reality shows," and even before. Andy Kaufman was on an episode of "The Dating Game," after all.

The fiction of reality shows has been that these real people are looking for something outside of fame. Maybe it's money, or bragging rights. Maybe it's romantic love. Maybe it's nookie. But savvy viewers understand what they're really after.

Movie roles.

(Hey, it happened to Colleen Haskell from the first season of "Survivor.")

That's why VH1's "Scream Queens" franchise is the most honest reality show on television. These are admitted actresses who are looking for a role in an actual, upcoming film (the latest "Saw" movie). Last year's winner actually did appear in "Saw VI," so you know that the producers will actually give the winner what they've promised.

Of course, "Saw VI" was the worst-performing film of the franchise. It ran into the buzzsaw that was "Paranormal Activity." It was also competing with the fact that the "Saw" films became stale and depressing. At least, that was the case with the fourth film, the last one I sat through.

What I'm saying is that there are plenty of reasons why this once-mighty franchise has run out of steam. It wasn't just the fact that it hitched its wagon a VH1 reality show (even though VH1 is now "more evolved"-- and by the way, how are those ratings working out for you?). But that probably didn't help matters.

That said, "Scream Queens," in which ten attractive young actresses compete in "acting" challenges for a spot in "Saw 3D," is an entertaining way to pass an hour a week.

In the first episode, the women had perform a scene inspired by ripped off from "A Nightmare on Elm Street," in which they had to play a young, attractive woman who has just awakened from a nightmare, only to discover her boyfriend is missing. Then, they're attacked by a cheap Freddy Krueger knock-off.

My own favorite performance was delivered by Sierra, who somewhat resembles a "Jersey Shore" cast member (please tell me someone out there is doing a "Jersey Shore"-inspired horror film). Her dream was clearly not a "nightmare" at all, but more of a "wet dream" (in the words of director and judge Tim Sullivan). Or, as one of the strongest actresses Tai put it, "I want to have her nightmares."

 Sierra having a "nightmare." Maybe she was dreaming about me?

Spacey Gabby, who tearfully states that she has devoted a full "four and a half years" of her life pursuing her lifelong dream of being an actress, won the first challenge and earned a guaranteed "callback" to the next round. This turned out to be a good thing, because her "director's challenge" was abysmal.

The women are all attractive to a certain degree, of course, but it's 4'11" Rosanna who is the shortest sexiest. She's so adorable that when she did the "anger" exercise with acting coach John Homa in the second episode, she couldn't even split a pumpkin with a baseball bat. And then she froze up and didn't complete her "I'm going to kill you" exercise.

Speaking of Mr. Homa, his acting class segments are the highlight of each episode. He stares daggers at all of the women, conveying "intensity" with snarls and a staccato voice with which he hurls vituperative reproaches about the actress's lack of focus. "Make me feel it!" "I'm not feeling it!" That sort of thing.

 John Homa (left) works his magic on country music superstar and Lifetime movie actress LeAnn Rimes.

His exercises are priceless glimpses into the "actor's craft." For instance, in the second episode, he had the actresses sit across from each other and convey a desire to kill each other by reciting letters of the alphabet.

"A," Gabby said, menacingly. "B," she then said, her voice dripping with venom.

And so on.

Mr. Homa, we are told in the first episode, has trained such noted thespians as Kirsten Dunst and Evan Rachel Wood. And, of course, last year's "Scream Queens" winner, Tanedra Howard. I don't really care about that. What I do care about is that he got a bunch of hot women to talk about killing people. That segment was over far too quickly.

The host of the show, Jaime King, is attractive and just interesting enough not to distract from the contestants. I understand the appeal of having a woman who has appeared in horror films host the show, but I can't help but think that "I Love Money" host Craig Jackson would be a great fit for this show.

Or, just about any show. Where is Craig Jackson? VH1, don't punish him for the sins of 51 Minds.

Each episode ends with a "director's challenge," in which Tim Sullivan, director of some movies I haven't seen so I can't judge them one way or the other, puts the women through their paces. In the first episode, they had to shoot a fake trailer for a film about a hot college girl who discovers her boyfriend is the devil, or something like that.

Witness it in all its "magic of Hollywood" glory:

It's pretty apparent that Tai and Jessica are the two best, and by a long shot. But, based on the judge's critiques in the second episode, Tai's consistent high quality might be a liability. They want to be "surprised." In other words, she needs to have an "arc." Because even though she's an actress, she's also a reality show contestant.

The message is clear: Tai, start some fights.

 Tai is too "consistent." Since this is the "more evolved" VH1, I'm not sure what advice to give her.

The second week's director's challenge each contestant played a hot woman who is going to kill and cook a man played by Trevor Wright, one of the stars of a bunch of movies I haven't seen, including David Fincher's next movie.

The dialog isn't about killing, Mr. Sullivan tells them. It's about steak. But the women have to make it menacing.

By way of direction, Mr. Sullivan tells them things like, "You're starting out where I want you to end." And, gesturing toward his face, "It has to be all in here."

Sierra makes it sexy. Or, as contestant Allison puts it, "Oh my god; Sierra's having sex with her steak." That might be the greatest line every uttered on a reality show.

Karlie ate a piece of the raw steak, much to the chagrin of the other actresses. "I wanted to do something that no one else would do."

Sarah's annoying Chicago accent puts everyone off, and makes the other actresses laugh.

Distracted and overwhelmed Rosanna was disappointed in her "stepford wife"-y performance.

When "The List" is revealed, Sierra starts to freak out about being in the bottom two again.

Jaime says Sarah's accent pulls her out of the moment, which is a problem with Jaime's shallowness, not with Sarah. But she's safe.

Bottom two, to no one's surprise, is best friends Rosanna and Sierra. Also to the surprise of no one, Rosanna is "cut." It's too bad, since she was the best hottest.

So I suppose I look forward to seeing which of these attractive young women will win a role in a movie that I probably won't see, ever.

Poor Rosanna was too sweet and too short for this world.

Rosanna pic source.
John Homa pic source.
Sierra pic source.
Cast pic source.
Tai pic source.


A.Jaye said...

I watched last season. And I'm watching this one. I also saw Saw 6 - which I'll be reviewing in the run up to whatever the next one's called.

Last years winner - Tanedra Howard - delightful as she is hasn't had any gigs other than the aforementioned. What? Chick's a better actress than that Angelina Salt whatnot.

Sierra. The New York chick who can't act. The reject from Jersey Shore. Included for humiliation purposes only. I guess were she's from she's considered 'hot'. The sorry bitch.

oh reality TV. This is where the horror genre scrapes the barrel for talent.

Look what they've done to my business.

Ricky Sprague said...

I agree. I was mystified by last season -- it really cheapened the "Saw" franchise which, despite the fact I didn't particularly care for the fourth one, deserved a lot better.

That said, Tanedra was the most deserving to win, and I'm glad she did, even if I didn't think the show should have existed.