Yesterday, it was reported that the spray-tanned face of our destruction, MTV, is preparing to bring another live-action scripted series into production. After the surprise success of their “Teen Wolf” adaptation, the network has chosen “Scream” to join the ranks of festering movie franchises adapted to television for a new generation. The Scream movies once made a bazillion dollars, but Scre4m proved just how little the current audience for teen horror flicks cares about Sidney Prescott if she isn’t being horribly, gorily tortured by an Eastern European mad man. Preferably topless.*
So what better way to continue making money off of an already-established title, thus assuring as little work is done as possible, and in turn creating an even larger profit margin, than by changing everything that older fans liked but new fans won’t watch?
No, seriously, that’s not rhetorical. I think turning Scream into “Scream” could absolutely work for MTV, and be an interesting show to boot. But based on all the evidence at hand, it certainly can’t share much of the original’s DNA to do so. Nobody who would watch this on MTV cares and nobody who cares would likely watch this on MTV. So, how exactly can MTV make a “Scream” TV show work? Hint: It will take at least a minimal amount of effort.
DON’T Make “Teen Wolf” Too
By that I mean, don’t pretend the franchise’s history doesn’t exist or completely alter the tone of the movies. If “Teen Wolf” works (and I don’t know, but I hear non-terrible things), it’s because the writers abandoned the comedy chops of Michael J. Fox and Jason Bateman to craft their own soapy universe. The rest of the world had rightly forgotten Teen Wolf and Teen Wolf Too a long time ago. (That is not a typo.) The same isn’t true for Scream, which still has enough fans to make the box office revenues of the fourth movie not a total disaster. The Ghostface killer is permanently ensconced in our pop culture mindscape. That doesn’t mean setting the series in Woodsboro, Mass., or making constant references to all the characters and deaths that the audience has ostensibly already seen, but the copycat nature of the murders and the meta-humor of being a genre TV show should absolutely be prominent.
DO Kill Off The Movie Survivors
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Scre4m would have been so much better had the killer finally gotten away with murder. The first episode of the MTV series should be all about the new Ghostface stalking and killing Sidney, Dewey, and Gale in the most gloriously satisfying ways possible, no matter how much it costs to get Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courtney Cox for what amounts to a pilot cameo. This suitably establishes the history, the copycatting, and, if the kills are clever enough, the humor. This also firmly distances the rest of the show from the movies by being balls-out ballsier than Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson could ever be.
DON’T Make Multiple Ghostfaces
Yes, I’ve seen all the movies and I know that each one always has two killers: one with revenge fantasies and motive, and one easily manipulated accomplice. Because horrifically slaying your friends is hard, messy work! No, of course there will be two killers hiding their identities behind that iconic mask, but they shouldn’t be caught or killed at the end of every season to incessantly mimic the movies. For one, due to the potential body count necessary to maintain tension throughout a full television season, that would make “Scream” a sort of anthology series and those generally don’t work out too well (“American Horror Story” possibly notwithstanding). Clearly, audiences were worn out after three movies following one main character (or one set of three main characters) as they outlandishly prevail over increasingly impossible odds. I can’t imagine how mind numbing several 13 half-hour episode seasons would be. So, who is this show about then?
DO Make The Killer The Main Character (Spoiler Alert?)
This goes back to my second suggestion and why the end of Scre4m sucks so damn hard. In that movie, we see exactly how Emma Roberts’ Jill Roberts (don’t worry, they address it**) could have, and should have, gotten away with it. Her plan was perfect and it was pretty thrilling seeing it all come together in the end, at which point I actively started rooting for her over the victims/leads. I’m not saying the new show should retcon the last film’s ending and feature the character of Jill, but I sure as hell wouldn’t mind it. Admittedly, this would make MTV’s “Scream” a bit more like Showtime’s “Dexter,” which isn’t a bad thing and would be completely new for the teen milieu. It would be especially interesting if we got to see the killer recruit a new accomplice or two every season, and hopefully focusing on the Whys of the kills more than the Hows. The murders, rather than the killer’s identity, would be the series’ main revelations. Perhaps even taking an entire season for ground work to be laid? Imagine watching the killer set up their traps each episode, having no clue how it’s all supposed to work, then witnessing the entire Rube Goldbergian bloodbath in one amazing season finale.
Of course, Dexter could be called an anti-hero which allows us some rooting interest, but Ghostface would ask the audience to identify, or at least try to comprehend, the likes of school shooters everywhere. So, that last part might be a particularly tough sell. Then again, it would also be pretty, y’know, edgy. Do kids these days still like that kind of thing?
* The female victim, not the mad man.
** No, they don’t. And it is distracting.
Rob Payne also writes the comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter @RobOfWar, and his wares can be purchased here and here (if you’re inot that sort of thing). He’s not saying “Scream” could be an award winning show, but he thinks it could at least be immensely watchable.