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Series / Scream Queens (2008)

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Scream Queens was a VH1 Reality Show that aired two seasons in 2008 and 2010. The setup: ten aspiring actresses compete in a series of challenges inspired by classic (and otherwise) horror films of yesterday and today, where they are judged by a panel consisting of acting coach John Homa, a Hollywood horror director (James Gunn in the first season, Tim Sullivan in the second), and a "scream queen", an actress with a solid background in the horror genre (Shawnee Smith in the first season, Jaime King in the second). The prize: a breakout role in the next installment in the Saw franchise.


Cue the blood, the screaming, the masked psychos, the jump scares, and all the reality show drama one would expect.

Season 1's winner, Tanedra Howard, went on to play Simone, the banker featured in the opening trap of Saw VI, while season 2's winner, Gabby West, had a comparatively smaller role as one of Jigsaw's victims in Saw 3D: The Final Chapter.

No relation to the Ryan Murphy horror-comedy series of the same name.



  • Alpha Bitch: Tai and, to a lesser extent, Allison in season 2. Tai's attitude eventually got her eliminated, despite her solid performances, as the judges felt that she would be a prima donna on set.
  • American Accents:
    • In season 2, Sarah Alami's inability to cover up her thick Chicago accent during her performances actually became a point against her with the judges.
    • Shawnee Smith also proudly wears her native South Carolina accent throughout season 1.
    • Sarah Agor in Season 1 also had a thick accent, though no one paid much mind to it.
  • Apocalyptic Log: One of the challenges in the penultimate episode of season 1 has the contestants filming these, Blair Witch-style.
  • Asian Airhead: Kylah Kim in season 1, despite having the smarts to become a lawyer, according to her bio.
  • Berserk Button: After Tanedra listened to Michelle's racially-tinged impression of her during season 1's "altered states" challenge, where each contestant had to impersonate one of her rivals (emphasizing what they saw as the negative traits that were holding their rivals back), she retaliated with an impression of Michelle as a bigoted, airheaded bimbo. Michelle's apology came quickly.
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  • Black Chick is Eliminated First: Inverted in season 1, where Inglewood's own Tanedra Howard wound up winning the entire competition. Season 2's Tai Davis likewise made it to the penultimate episode before her elimination.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Michelle in season 1 usually peppered her performances with far more obscenities than her competitors. No points for guessing that she's from Long Island.
  • Cute and Psycho: Jessica Palette in season 1. Her Establishing Character Moment was her screaming "I'm psycho!" during the very first challenge, and her fellow contestants and even the judges said she was nuts.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: This is John Homa's default teaching style, him being more than happy to chew out the contestants for not delivering quality performances.
  • Eat That: Happens inadvertently in episode three of season 2, where the contestants shot a scene that climaxed with a bunch of maggots falling on their heads. Some of them had their mouths open when they were dropped, and got a mouthful of live maggots in return.
  • Fanservice: Many challenges involve getting the contestants into their underwear, bikinis, and other sexy outfits.
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • Tanedra in Season 1, as she was rather frail when hearing negative things. In fact, it took half of an episode to get her back to focus (after she was criticized by the judges for the first time in the penultimate episode)
    • The reason why Tai in Season 2 was axed before the finale, despite being a strong actress, was because of her overly critical attitude to Gabby, which made her lose focus on the competition.
  • Final Girl: Oddly enough, in a meta sense, Gabby in season 2 fit this trope. She was often portrayed as the "good girl" who was frequently picked on by Tai, and in the more fanservice-filled challenges, she often chose less skimpy costumes than her competitors. She also won a competition themed around horror movies, surviving after everybody else was "killed off" (which was represented by their portraits getting hacked up and stained with blood).
  • Foreshadowing: In the season 2 premiere, one group of contestants tries to prepare for the next day's challenge by practicing screaming. Another group, committed to studying the script they'd been given, decides not to tell them to shut up despite how annoying it is, figuring that they'd wear out their voices and thus make it easier for their group to impress the judges. Sure enough, Gabby, one of the girls in the screaming group, delivered one of the worst performances in that challenge because her voice was hoarse from all the screaming she'd done the prior night.
  • Former Child Star: Lindsay Felton from Caitlin's Way was a contestant in season 1. She placed third, having made it all the way to the final episode.
  • Gilligan Cut: Lina in season 1 bragged about "starring" in movies with such A-listers as Adam Sandler; the show helpfully, and happily, informs us that her roles were all bit parts. Cut to her delivering a horrible performance of that first challenge.
  • Girl Posse:
    • In Season 1, Lina, Michelle, Kylah and Angela created one, which didn't last even half an episode.
    • In Season 2, Tai has one with Sarah, Sierra, and Jessica.
  • History Repeats: For both seasons, in the final 4, at John Homa's acting class, one of the girls complained a subject when they couldn't stand it anymore. In season 1, it was Angela feeling that she was under appreciated despite improving, while in season 2, it was Jessica feeling that Gabby was given too many chances.
    • Both seasons also had a girl named Sarah with a thick accent place 6th.
  • I'm Not Here to Make Friends: Christine in season 2, upon being put on the chopping block in the fifth episode, felt that she should've had this attitude, claiming that she'd been spending too much time making friends as opposed to improving her performances.
  • Jump Scare: The preferred method of delivering the contestants their acting challenge for the week was to send a guy in a monster costume in with it. Eventually, they started to anticipate it.
  • The Makeover: Both seasons have this, but unlike shows like America's Next Top Model, only two contestants are picked for it.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Most of the girls, Kylah from Season 1 is the most prominent with everyone stating that she's unbelievably hot in every 10 minutes.
  • Narm: invoked Occurs frequently with the performances of some of the more hopeless contestants. When it's especially bad, the show often cuts to a Reaction Shot of the other contestants laughing backstage, and sometimes edits the footage to make it funnier; for example, one contestant's especially theatrical performance was overlaid with a grainy, black-and-white filter and made to look like a silent film.
    • Also invoked when Shawnee shows the season 1 contestants an unintentionally funny scene from The Brain That Wouldn't Die as the introduction to a horror-comedy challenge in which they'd be reenacting that scene.
  • Real Trailer, Fake Movie: Occurs once in each season.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Michelle in season 1 found out the hard way that you do not call Tanedra this.
  • Self-Deprecation: During the camp horror challenge in season 1, Lindsay remarks about how her experience starring on a Nickelodeon show has prepared her to take on really corny dialogue. Naturally, she won that challenge.
  • Serkis Folk: Episode three of season 2 had the girls playing a CGI puppet through motion capture.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Zigzagged in Season 1, with Tanedra started out as a Performer with using her raw emotion to compensate her lack of experience, then became more of a Technician as judges noted that Tanedra was really skilled in acting, but was lacking in star quality compared to her eventual rival Michelle.
  • Tempting Fate: Happened twice to Lina in the season 1 episode where they're shooting a trailer for a campy horror film. She didn't want to play the part where she had to make out with another woman, but felt that the judges would view her as too timid an actress if she voiced such concerns during the auditions. Naturally, she got picked for one half of the lesbian makeout couple. Then she decided that she would try to fake her way through the scene by not actually making out with her partner Angela, merely licking her face... only for James Gunn to tell her that he wants a full, passionate, spit-swapping, tongue-in-mouth kiss. While she was able to get out of doing the scene (Jessica was more than happy to replace her), her lying to Gunn about her unwillingness to do it was what got her eliminated that week.
  • The World's Expert on Getting Killed: Non-lethal, reality show elimination examples.
    • Inverted in season 1 with Tanedra. She was the only contestant who did not have any prior training or experience in acting, yet she beat nine professional actresses in an acting competition.
    • In season 2, Lana Underwood bragged about her acting background and how it prepared her to dominate the show. She was the first one eliminated after delivering a truly dreadful performance.
  • You're Insane!: In season 1, John said as much to Jessica during one of the eliminations.
    "I would like to think that I can hire someone to play an axe murderer that's actually not going to kill me."