As the final dregs of steam ran out for Glee last year, presumably Fox was hunting around for something that could reignite that teen energy for its network, energy that is pretty much lacking in the rest of its line-up of procedurals and action conspiracies. So they turned back to Ryan Murphy’s team and they seem to have pitched something exactly in the middle of their two biggest successes – Glee and American Horror Story. But instead of a perfect blend of the two, we’ve ended up with an unholy mess of un-watchable awfulness.
We start in 1995 at a sorority house party, where a new applicant gives birth, much to everyone’s surprise including her own. Her ‘sisters’ are horrified that she would do something so awful to them, particularly given that TLC’s Waterfalls is next up on the playlist and they can’t possibly miss that. They embrace the 90’s awfulness while she bleeds to death in the tub, leaving the one supportive sister holding the sobbing baby.
Jump forward to the present and you’d think that people couldn’t get any worse, but they really do. The current president of the sorority is the unbelievably hateful Chanel and her brain-dead minions, dubbed Chanel #1, #2 and #5. The new dean (Jamie Lee Curtis) is trying to shut the sorority down because of their hatefulness and also the fact the previous president met a very grizzly fate. The dean is foiled in her attempts by a ditzy lawyer sent from the national sorority council (or whatever) and instead punishes them by forcing them to accept all pledges, not just the ones that conform to their mean criteria. So in stagger a bunch of miss-fits who would have been improbable even for the Glee club. The only ‘normal’ person in the whole thing is Grace, who’s obsessed with joining the sorority that her dead mother had been a member of.
Things rapidly turn sour with bodies dropping at a remarkable and icky rate. Everyone has secrets, everyone’s lying and fundamentally everyone is utterly awful. Even the ones who I guess we’re supposed to feel some connection with are actually horrific, never acting anything like ‘real’ human beings would. These people aren’t unpleasant like the Sue Sylvester or the Cheerleaders in Glee, they are hateful in a way that had me actually reaching for the remote control so I wouldn’t have to listen to their awfulness any longer. I stuck it out for journalistic integrity (ha!) but between the mediocre acting, terrible script and horrendous character profiles, it was really very hard work.
I can see where Ryan Murphy was aiming with this, but where Glee hit the sweet spot of cheese combined with bite (at least in the early seasons) he’s missed it here, and with this kind of target a miss is as good as a mile. Jamie Lee Curtis is a great example, she’s perfect casting given her horror movie cult status, and they’re obviously trying to re-create the Jane Lynch magic from Glee, but she’s not outrageous enough to follow in those tracksuits. Nor is she real enough though to give a grounding point for the show. And she’s also neither evil or funny enough for that matter.
I was rather looking forward to this, I was hoping for Scream, or Cabin in the Woods, or even American Horror Story: The Teenage Years, and instead I got something that was, just like Curtis’ character – not outrageous enough, not real enough, not evil enough and not funny enough.