Like many people, I was skeptical of Scream: The Series when it was first announced. I was excited to see the franchise continue, but the notion of a series on MTV had its risks. It could be watered down, it could cater to a different demographic, it could suffer from being drawn-out. How could it have multiple seasons unless it changed its cast each year? There was a heavy debate around the time Scream was announced as to whether or not the format of a slasher could even work on TV.
When Scream actually began to air, it was entertaining, but it suffered early on from that transition from big screen to small. It had a lot of the trappings of a teen show on MTV, it definitely felt of that type, the actors were still finding their footing in these somewhat archetypal roles.
It alienated fans for creating a backstory for its town and its characters that was totally different from the Maureen Prescott backstory of the Scream films. It did feel like it was being stretched out at times. And, perhaps one of the worst moves any installment in the franchise could make: the killer was really, really obvious.
Just because the characters don’t have the same names doesn’t mean they don’t meet the same archetypes. And even when they do, they do the unexpected thing, because that’s what Scream has always been about. The DNA of the films is all over the TV series, but it’s also its own thing, and that’s what every TV series based on a beloved property like this should do.
The second season of Scream was a huge improvement over the first. Darker, funnier, gorier, scarier. It felt like it made the most out of its structure. With the second season, they had finally figured out how to tell a slasher story in an episodic format. You could still somewhat see the killer coming, but the reveal was less obvious and—most importantly—had way higher stakes for the remaining main characters.
That’s primarily the reason why I think it’s a mistake to reboot the show now. Scream was cancelled just as it was finding its footing. I know it’s returning for a third season, but it will be a new story with totally new characters. Scream: The Series as we knew it is over and is being replaced with something very different. It’s been criticized for it’s Ghostface looking too different from the film counterpart—even if the differences were minor—but I’ll honestly be surprised if we see any variation of Ghostface in the upcoming third season.
This is just me assuming things at this point, but the trend in horror has certainly geared toward the American Horror Story approach. Long-form anthologies have become the new norm. Everything would rather be a miniseries than a series. Admittedly, this works on paper for a slasher. But we have no confirmation that Scream season three will actually be a slasher of any sort. We don’t know anything yet, so it’s hard to speak to what it might entail, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it tackled a new sub-genre.
What I do know is that the series we had is gone. It was cancelled just as it was beginning to find its potential, and that’s unfortunate. There was great potential for a third season. Whereas the first season left things slightly open-ended and the second just ran with that and told the best story that it could, the end of that season left things wide open for a new season that we’re just not going to see. I guess a small comfort can be found in knowing that our favorite characters have officially survived the ordeal, but that’s not much, considering so many of them were finally starting to find their footing.
I’ll actually miss these characters, which at first was something I did not expect to ever say. Audrey and Noah especially turned out to be incredibly well developed by the end of the second season.
Like many shows that were wiped out just as they were beginning to find their footing, I think Scream: The Series will eventually find its audience. Given the ratings, I’m surprised it wasn’t cancelled outright. And even if I might not sound like it, I am optimistic about whatever the third season might be, I just think it was the wrong idea right now.
A revival a little later down the line, after we’ve all had time to digest the story and characters we’ve gotten used to, that could have worked very well. But they might be on the right track. They might even create something better than what we just had, but that won’t change the fact that it will be incredibly jarring to watch something so different, so soon.